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Aug 12

magi2Playing the young magic-user, named Oz, you dodge heat-seeking missiles, bombard a giant robotic dinosaur with spells, and freeze foes in gleaming blocks of ice. To win you’ll need quick wits, lightning reflexes and, perhaps most importantly, a solid understanding of diabetes management.

What? An understanding of how to keep blood sugars stable?

You see, in the upcoming video-game, The Magi and the Sleeping Star, your character isn’t just the descendant of a long line of magical heroes, he also has Type-1 Diabetes.

Adam Grantham, President of Game Equals Life and Magi’s creative producer, is a videogame veteran who’s also lived with diabetes for over 15 years. With Magi, he hopes not just to create a health education game, but to create one that stacks up favorably with the latest action hits. “The illness isn’t the focus,” says Grantham. “The game is about a hero who must battle armies of robots and giant monsters in order to save his world. But since this hero happens to have Type-1 diabetes, players must learn to manage the disease in order to be successful.”

magi3For example, keeping a stable blood sugar level is directly tied to the hero’s combat performance. Eating food restores his health, but if the carbs pile up, his selection of spells will become limited and his movements will become sluggish. Administer just the right amount of insulin, and perform regular blood sugar tests, though, and his magic will gain extra power.

“Diabetes management really is a system, and even though the rules are soft, and not always 100% predictable, it is possible to use the rules to manage the disease,” Grantham explains. “Games teach players things all the time in regards to managing systems and dealing within rules. You can ask anyone who frequently plays Role-Playing Games and Real-time Strategy Games and others. They remember from the game, what order to take actions in, what attacks to use on what enemies, what techniques to use in what kind of environments, etc. So Magi just takes this norm from video games and applies it to diabetes management.”

Game Equals Life, an independent design studio funded by private partnerships and investment, has yet to announce a release date for Magi. However, the project has already caused some buzz on various blogs and message boards. In an industry where young gamers are savvy and selective, Magi’s pedigree and polish are just as important as the health content itself in conveying a message of responsible diabetes care.

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Jun 24

I admit it. I often don’t act my age. Lately I’ve been listening to and loving the new Black Eyed Peas album The E.N.D. The first six tracks are downright addictive but track 13, Now Generation, is a great commentary on today’s youth and also a good reminder of the need for real-time marketing tactics to be included in the mix (whether you’re a health marketer or otherwise).

Popular music of course both reflects and shapes the society of its time. Take a look at these lyrics from Now Generation:

I want money
I want it want it want it
Fast internet
Stay connected in a jet
Wi-fi, podcast
Blasting out an SMS
Text me and I text you back
Check me on the iChat
I’m all about that h t t p
You’re a PC I’m a Mac
I want it..

Myspace in your space
Facebook is a new place
Dip divin’ socializin’
I’ll be out in cyber space
Google is my professor
Wikipedia checker
Checkin my account
Loggin in and loggin out
Baby I want it..
Now!

This is the now generation
This is the generation now

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Jun 08

I took my friend to the ER and we were anxiously awaiting test results. Friendly nurses had drawn blood, run an IV and were very helpful. We had not yet seen a doctor yet. Finally, she strode in. “We have to admit you to the hospital. You have blah blah blah,” uttering some medical terminology we didn’t understand.

My friend, lying in bed, looked alarmed. But she didn’t ask about “blah blah blah” but said, “I don’t have medical insurance. How much will this cost?”

The doctor glared back and in a stern voice answered,

“You can turn and talk to that wall about prices. I don’t know. I’m here to save your life.”

Turn and talk to that wall?! I couldn’t believe it. Isn’t treating the patient treating the whole patient? Isn’t handling patient stress and emotional health part of recovery?

I know, I know…we were in the ER–handles acute stuff and punts over to others (thank God this Doc didn’t choose primary care as her specialty). But still, would it have been that hard to have said something else like, “I don’t know how much it’s going to cost, but I do know we see many people without health insurance. I will send someone to talk to you about your options.”

Talk to the wall? Come on, Doc, time to take a break and go find your compassion again.

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Jun 05

Social news site, Digg, announced this week that they would allow readers to vote for ads that appear on the website, thereby driving the ads displays up, or burying them down. This provides real-time crowd-sourced data as to which ads appeal to Digg readers the most.

In a cosmic coincidence, I heard the Digg announcement the same day Dr. Thani Jambulingam suggested to me that pharmaceutical companies should rely less on traditional focus groups and use social media more to uncover unmet needs. “Dr. Thani” is the Chair of the  Department of Pharmaceutical Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University who also has considerable real-world experience in the life science industry. He specifically suggested that, like Digg, pharma companies should ask patients to create, critique and respond to potential ads. When I suggested they might already be doing that in focus group panels, he rightly pointed out that people respond more candidly when they are protected by remote, large group anonymity than they do when they are eyeball-to-eyeball with an interviewer.

A couple years ago Doritos used a home grown ad contest as part of their Superbowl campaign with great success. Digg is now looking for ongoing crowdsourced ranking. Tomorrow perhaps a bold healthcare marketer will use social media to launch a truly community connected campaign.

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Mar 05

Marcus Welby is dead.

The trusted, compassionate doctor, who knew and treated your whole family, has been replaced with ten-minute primary care visits and quick referrals to specialists. The results are frightening. Estimates suggest that only half the patients take their medication as directed. Doctors are discussing adverse events only 35% of the time. Only 30% of surgical patients can name even one risk factor of their surgery. Patients are frustrated, and sometimes desperate.

And don’t think for a minute that physicians are happy about any of this. They no longer control how they practice, what they prescribe, or how much to charge. In fact, half of primary care docs plan to reduce or end their clinical practice in the next three years. This will obviously compound the problem of access and quality to care.

It is inevitable. We will take ownership for our own health, and be the leader of our health team. We will embrace innovative digital technologies to learn and monitor and track. We will embrace the medical home. We will connect with people that share our condition. We will all become “empowered patients.”

In fact, the tipping point is now. For the first time in history, more people are searching the Internet for health information than asking doctors. 75% indicate that the Web the most trusted source of information on ailments and drugs. The massive investment in electronic personal health records over the next two years will open up new possibilities for tracking, insights and sharing.

With great change comes great opportunity. Entrepreneurs, researchers, and life science companies must provide leadership and support to provide patients with new knowledge and skills, to improve health literacy rates, to engage with health consumers who are active on social networks, and to truly empower patients to charge of their own health. There will be plenty of winners in the new model.

Our mission at Krū Research is to nurture the ecosystem of life science professional, Health 2.0 vendors, and individuals who are invested in a patient-centered health system. Our role will be to provide original research, insights, education and forums where we can ourselves connect and learn.

While we can’t bring back the fictional character portrayed by Robert Young, we can work to bring out the Marcus Welby in each of us.

-Kevin

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