UC Berkeley’s Jaspal Sandhu Personalizes Health Care with Health 2.0 EDU

Jaspal Sandhu has used his role as an Associate Professor at Berkeley School of Public Health as well as his position as the Co-Founder of Gobee to reach numerous populations in order to improve health through innovation- and he’s at it again with Health 2.0 EDU in October. Jaspal will be leading a joint course with Berkeley Haas School of Business and Health 2.0 EDU as part of a three-day executive education course on digital health, a unique experience even for this expert:

EDU: The courses you teach on design and innovation at UC Berkeley are unique in the field of public health to begin with. What are you teaching now, and how will the upcoming Health 2.0 EDU/Berkeley course differ from your other graduate courses?

JS: I teach design and innovation for public health, including health care. The focus of my teaching is less on the innovations that already exist and more on how to innovate. The main course that I teach is called “Designing Innovative Public Health Solutions.” It’s a graduate-level, interdisciplinary, project-based course that brings together students from public health, the business school, the policy school, and engineering – with a smattering of others at UCSF. Digital health projects that have emerged from that course include a social paging solution for medical centers in the US and a text-messaging emergency response system for Libya. In my on-campus courses, we are trying to create leaders who will facilitate innovation in their careers. At the upcoming Health 2.0-Berkeley course, we’re already dealing with leaders. What we want to do is give these executives the ability to take the innovation process back to their organizations and teams, to help them create better services and products more quickly and cost-effectively.

EDU: How do you get consumers and patients to engage with new technologies?

JS: The key is to tap into the needs and values of your users. You need to talk to the people who will be using your technology. You need to know what makes them tick. People will be willing to learn a new technology if there is a strong motivation to do so. Witness how many people in their 70’s figured out how to use Skype, and now FaceTime, to talk to their grandkids in another city: In 2012, MetLife found that 12% of American grandparents were using Skype to communicate with their grandkids. That’s just Skype and that’s now considered old data. There are plenty of people in this group of Skyping grandparents – here I’m just talking about those who would not consider themselves to be tech-literate – who can’t do much else with a computer. It’s not because they can’t learn, it’s because they don’t have reason to.

EDU: New digital tools for health care systems management seem to be popping up everywhere. Are there any that seem ahead of the curve to you? What makes the best one successful?

JS: I do think there are tools that are ahead of the curve, but it’s probably best to save that discussion for October. Tools that tap into the real needs of your users and integrate with their lives will be adopted and used, whether you’re looking at consumers or health professionals. That adoption and use is the marker of success. Digital services rely on critical masses to be not only financially viable, but also technically viable, in the case of services that improve their performance with bigger datasets and bigger social networks.

EDU: You have worked with multiple international organizations: how does digital technology in the health care system differ from location to location, and how do you deal with this challenge?

JS: Ten years ago, the technology platforms we used differed much more from place to place. Lower hardware costs, expanded mobile networks, and consolidation around a few social networks have leveled the playing field. What really differs from place to place are the people, the culture, the organizations, the markets, and the health challenges. Our challenge is to figure out how to design digital services for these different environments.

EDU: What are you most looking forward to in your upcoming Health 2.0 EDU/Berkeley course and what do you hope your students will take away?

JS: I am most looking forward to what the group will create during and after the session. This is not about me transferring my knowledge to the group, it’s about providing access to tools that can unlock new ideas and directions for those in the room. Because the session is so interactive and because we are bringing together such a diversity of digital health experience into one space, what will be created on that day will be unique to that day. I can’t wait to be in that room with such an amazing group – I think I’m going to learn as much as anyone else.

Registration for the executive course ends September 1, 2013. The full agenda is available HERE.

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