I oftentimes refer to my career in Connected Health technology as my favorite hobby. This can be verified if we meet and you ask me to talk about how to use technology to engage patients outside of the care setting (go ahead, I dare you). You’ll learn that it’s pretty much a case of “wind me up and watch me go.”
However, little known fact is that I was raised in this amazing rural family where art and science were always best friends. I learned the color wheel before I learned the alphabet, but then I learned how to read via grandpa’s subscription to Popular Mechanics. With that being true, I’m ecstatic that my worlds of art and healthcare technology have converged thanks to the Walking Gallery of Healthcare.
If you are not familiar with the Walking Gallery, then it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to it. I am fortunate enough to be friends with Regina Holliday who is both a nationally acclaimed artist and the founder of the Walking Gallery of Healthcare. Regina found her way into the role of patient advocate when she and her husband found themselves having to muscle their way through the healthcare system during his battle with cancer. Since his death, Regina has been a tremendous advocate for patients in general and for patient access to their healthcare records specifically. As part of her advocacy work, she created the Walking Gallery where people give her, or one of the other artists, a blazer and their healthcare story. She then paints their story on the back of the blazer, and they, in turn, become another walker in the Walking Gallery. If you have been to a healthcare conference in the past few years, then you have undoubtedly spotted at least one of the nearly 400 blazers that have been painted thus far.
Well, now I have the great pleasure of not only being a walker in the Walking Gallery but also being the newest artist as well. Last week I painted my blazer art entitled “Trees as Far as the Eye Can See.”
This blazer tells the story of my grandmother dying from cancer in rural Pennsylvania in 2003. Her home was a one-hour drive from the hospital, and her journey through the dying process was further stymied by the fact that she was part of what we in the industry like to call the “vulnerable population.” She wanted to spend her last stage of life at home where she could look out the window and see the plant life she adored as the seasons changed outside the window. My family took lessons from hospice nurses on how to provide her with around the clock care at home. I was the night shift.
Being an early adopter of collaborative technologies, mobile and social media were already a large part of my life even in 2003. I oftentimes say that I was blogging before it was called blogging. That’s not technically true, but I was certainly blogging before it hit mainstream. By that time collaborative technologies were already being used to make the best Calculus teachers, that were once restricted to a single classroom, available to the world. The world of portal technology was about three or four years along. During all of those late nights when I had many questions and no answers I found myself asking, “Can’t we build technologies that make healthcare available everywhere?”
All of those late night questions led me to where I am today. I now find myself leading Connected Health efforts here at Perficient. I get to do things like write strategies that use social media as a population health education tool. Our teams build patient portals that reach deep into the homes of families all around the nation. We are personalizing interfaces in such a way that offer different content to pregnant women versus Hispanic teens versus senior citizens. We are mapping telehealth to the digital transformation maturity curve. So, I do have an answer to my late night question. Yes, we can make healthcare available everywhere. Even in those places where you look outside and all you see are trees as far as the eye can see.