Patient voices at TEDMED 2012

From access to research and health data (Ben Goldacre, Leslie Saxon), and to basic

"The Missing Ingredients." Art and photo by Regina Holliday

resources (Rebecca Onie), to better understanding of autism (Virginia Breen) and balancing patient risk with potential rewards (Nick Boulis and Jonathan Glass), patient issues were a highlight of TEDMED presentations this April.

In the Hub next to the Kennedy Center, corporate partners also focused on patient needs: Philips displayed devices to help improve the patient experience; Nurture, smarter healthcare center and equipment designs geared toward unique patient needs; Johnson & Johnson, interactive experiences to help understand what it feels like to live with schizophrenia.

Delegates seemed to be on the same wavelength. “The Role of the Patient” was elected one of TEDMED’s Great Challenges for focus and discussion in the coming year; it drew the third most votes among the top 20 Challenges.

"Sacred Cow." Art and photo by Regina Holliday

And Regina Holliday, patient artist activist, captured it all poignantly, colorfully and permanently with paintings and blogs throughout the event, culminating in descriptions and presentations of her work on the Opera House stage to TEDMED partners.

Visit Holliday’s blog for her recount of the TEDMED experience and to see her interpretation of the patient perspective throughout.  As she says on her blog,  “I often say verbally, ‘We are all patients in the end,’ and sometimes I say that visually.”



Under the big tent at TEDMED

In a 30,000-square-foot tent next to the Kennedy Center, TEDMED’s corporate partners and contributors are showing their latest products and thinking on healthcare innovation in interactive displays that made for some fun wandering.

After being stalked for a while by what looked like a newly slim R2D2, I discovered that it

Mimi Englander via the VGo

was actually Mimi Englander from Boston via the VGo, a remote communications system used by docs to make home visits — remember those? — and to monitor patients, and by kids facing illness or disability who would otherwise not be able to visit classrooms.  We had a friendly talk — once I got over the strangeness of conversing with a roughly three-foot-tall machine — and I could see the benefits of having your doc visit by VGo instead of waiting for her to wend her way through vast hospital corridors.

On to Philips, which has been polling Delegates about the significant health issue of sleep deprivation, and displaying the results in a visual outline with graphics.  The size of the wall graphic suggests that many of us are struggling with the issue, although there were reportedly heated arguments over whether exercise, reading, health and pets helped or hindered sleep.

Graphic by illustrator David Stanley

Lastly, I was able to catch up with in situ artist and patient advocate Regina Holliday, who was doing a painting of the a female form inspired by Jonathan Eisen‘s earlier talk about microbes and how humans are basically base camps for their tiny but mightily active colonies. The 51 circles modestly adorning the female represent TEDMED’s 51 Great Challenges, while the subject sips a cup of human fecal matter which, as Eisen explained, is being used as transplant therapy to treat bacterial infections.

Regina Holliday at work