Written by: Laura Blumenthal

Part of cultivating a creative professional mindset is about exposing yourself to new perspectives and ideas.

That’s why at CCI, many of our initiatives involve “field trips:” site visits to organizations we aren’t familiar with, or learning from thought leaders inside and outside the health sector and the safety net. This spring, two of our Technology Hub participants had the chance to do just that in the “Live Music Capital of the World.”

We sent Anshu Abhat, MD, Director of Patient Engagement at the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, and Charles Kitzman, COO of Shasta Community Health Centers, to report on the 32nd annual South by Southwest (SxSW). “South By” is a mega-festival in Austin, Texas that showcases stories from health, education, tech, marketing, media, music, film, and politics.

From dazzling engagement strategies to selfies with Stacey Abrams and Stevie Ray Vaughan, below are Anshu and Charles’ top moments from the festival.

Ways to Try Before You Buy-In

Being involved in patient engagement, Anshu was interested in learning from the marketers at South By. A branding term that resonated with her was “activation.” Marketers use this term to describe an approach to generating consumer interest in a product or service by allowing people to actually experience or use it. There were some provocative product activations during SxSW, like people donning protective gear and smashing things that represented societal barriers, e.g. the glass ceiling. Here’s one from Lululemon, where you get to work out in their clothes for free. As another example, I learned from CCI’s Diana Nguyen last week that Trader Joe’s actually allows you to sample ANYTHING from the store!

So when we talk about engagement in healthcare, what more could we be doing to improve uptake on important services?

  • How might health systems engage the senses – visuals, food, sounds, smells– to promote uptake of preventive health measures?
  • How might patients get to know their provider better before selecting one, beyond reading a short bio?
  • How might we give clients a flavor for group visits or classes before they decide whether to sign up?

Food for thought!

Healthy Behavior Tech That Feels More Like Fun

IDEO.org and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation held a discussion about the ways technology is advancing health and healthy behaviors at an individual level. The developers of Pokemon Go, which is in the hands of 800 million people(!), shared how people are using the tool to encourage physical activity, community building, and connecting people. The game is now even integrated with smartphone step trackers.

Tech Attuned to the Safety Net

Charles and Anshu are tech nerds, and a few startups with potential to improve care in underserved populations piqued their curiosity:

  • BehAIvior: Developing tech to predict and prevent opioid addiction relapses using advanced wearable devices (similar to a Fitbit) and pattern-detection machine learning algorithms.
  • Mindright: Provides personalized, live coaching over text message for teens who want to talk, judgment free.
  • Concrn: Provides a compassionate alternative to 911 for people experiencing mental health crises, homelessness and substance abuse issues. Neighborhood peer responder teams, activated via app, are trained in to de-escalate, provide crisis intervention, and provide people a direct linkage to services.
  • Urgent Wellness: Places convenient, community-placed, Community Health Worker (CHW) operated, telemedicine and medical vending machine kiosks in low-income housing projects, homeless shelters and community-based service organizations.

Opioid Use Management: Is More Data the Answer?

The opioid epidemic was a popular theme of session topic from the public and private sectors, alike.

In one session, Charles learned about a Texas initiative to make Narcan more accessible in primary care and emergency department settings, as well as on the streets. Learn more about them here.

Some speakers put stock into idea of big data as a panacea for solving the opioid epidemic. For people like Charles, this notion felt out of touch, and that more data will only tell us what we already know. He thought the speakers could have done a better job at where progress was already being made – in primary care settings, using data already at clinics’ fingertips, developing medication assisted treatment clinics, and having x-waivered providers. To learn more about some of those active efforts, check out CCI’s addiction initiative resources.

Social Media Is Not the Nemesis of Teen Wellbeing

Our friends at Hopelab hosted a cheeky session on youth mental health called, “What the @%& is wrong with my teenager?” They shared research finding that social media’s impact on youth experiencing depression, especially young women, can actually be helpful. Research suggests that teens with depression often create a secondary account specifically to connect with other teens who are depressed in a virtual therapy-type format.

The Fun Stuff!

Anshu was inspired by the lineups of women powerhouses speaking at the conference. Check out her photo-op with Stacey Abrams!

A musician himself, Charles was elated for the chance to take in the sights and sounds of the city. He saw a variety of bands and singer songwriters, including a Rockabilly band who’s standup bassist had no left hand. Charles learned that the musician lost his hand serving in Afghanistan, and re-taught himself to play using what remained. Talk about innovative!

You can also pay homage to one of Charles’ favorite guitar players of all time, Stevie Ray Vaughan. He has a statue in Austin.

Thank you to Anshu and Charles for sharing all sides of their SxSW experience with us so we could learn from afar!



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