Technology, Patient Engagement, & #pinksocks

This month on the Strive Labs Blog we’ve been talking about patient engagement. We’ve discussed why patient engagement matters in physical therapy, developing relationships with folks in the workplace to foster improved health for the entire population, and some suggestions on the dos and don’ts of patient engagement.

As we close out the month, I’m thrilled to share with you a discussion I had with Nick Adkins. With a Twitter bio that reads like this, how can you NOT want to follow Nick Adkins?

Kilt-wearing pink furry bike riding healthcare guy. Love More. Fear Less. #pinksocks #GSD #EINpower #hcldr

In our discussion, we covered Nick’s thoughts on how to facilitate engagement between provider and patient, the use of technology to augment face-to-face interactions in healthcare, and the #pinksocks movement. Thanks for speaking with me, Nick!


To start, I asked Nick about what Nick Adkins Version 1.0 looked like.

Four years ago, Nick was living in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a healthcare executive struggling to decide in what direction he should take his business. But after having what he referred to as a “transformational experience” at Burning Man, he voted to sell the company and move to Portland, Oregon. After arriving in Portland, he met Bill Kelly, a Harvard MBA who (back in the day) had started a company called Sapient Health Network (which later became WedMD).

Bill told Nick that he was working on a new project called ReelDx – a video-based learning tool for medical residents and students. Nick saw the possibilities of utilizing such a platform not just for medical education, but to also enable asynchronous connections and touch points between patients and providers. It was then that Andrew Richards, ReelDx Co-Founder & CTO and his team began developing the medvid.io open API toolkit to enable app developers to easily integrate secure video messaging functionality into any app or software.

Using Tech for Improved Face-to-Face Interactions in Healthcare

Nick explained that although we are currently living in a world of “one-to-many” communications (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc.), secure video communication is quite the opposite – it fosters one-to-one interactions that enhance the patient/provider relationship.

I asked Nick, “How do we maintain the human component of healthcare while embracing technology?” and he responded with this:

“What we all crave is connection. We want to know that someone else out there is listening to us and we are not alone in this. Using asynchronous video allows providers to scale telemedicine – providers are no longer limited to seeing patients during the 9-5 work day and they aren’t limited by specific ‘appointment times.’”

“Since we can’t create more time, we have to change something else."

"When email was created, we were able to communicate en masse, at scale, asynchronously. Now email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter all enable this type of communication, which allows us to do more with the same amount of time. If providers can “see” patients asynchronously and be paid for it (as laws change to allow reimbursement for telehealth and video-based visits), we can increase our throughput exponentially.

As this relates to patient engagement, Nick added,

“What patients want to know is that someone has their back, they aren’t alone between now and the next visit 4 weeks from now. It’s the continuity of care, the touch points with the provider, that foster the connection.”

“This is being accepted by everyone from Seniors to Millennials, for the same reason that Facebook and Twitter work– we want to feel like we’re not going this alone and if we really need something, someone is there for us. This is not replacing the human provider, it’s augmenting the interactions with our provider in ways that our provider can’t humanly do right now.”

“Tech relieves the strain on providers while still allowing patients to feel connected and safe. It’s happening now. Health systems are rolling out all kinds of awesome stuff – Intermountain Healthcare, UPMC, Kaiser Permanente, and Philips are all innovating in exciting ways. And the feedback from patients is good.”

Technology as Facilitator

Nick offered a few suggestions for developing tech to facilitate patient/provider engagement:

“The patient is the boss! Don’t do anything: design, production, app creation, development of systems, or workflow without involving patient right up-front. The patient must have seat at the table and we must design around the patient."

"For example, Todd Dunn says #D4P – Design for People and Pete Wendel says #DwP – Design with People. We’re not talking patients and providers – we’re talking people! We’re all people, and we’re all patients at some point.”

As for patient engagement, Nick says that he finds that phrase off-putting. He says, “If I’m a patient, I’m already engaged! I’m here in your office! People want to engage – we crave connection, we’re social animals. Tech is just a way to facilitate that connection.”

He added, “When providers say ‘patients don’t know what’s best for them,’ it’s legacy paternalism – old school thinking! It is shocking to run into it and it still exists. There’s a lot of ego at play in healthcare – that’s why I love the hospitals where providers just have their first name on their name badge. We’re ALL part of the care team – we’re all there to help the patient have a good experience.

“This is the idea behind #EINPower, a term coined on Twitter by Bernadette Keefe, MD. Ein is the German word for one and refers to the power of one – we’re all one team, we’re all in this together! There is no 'us' versus 'them.' We’re all a team: doctor, nurse, patient, lab tech, Mom, Dad, kids, the goal is to get the patient healthy. We’re here to deliver choices to patients.” Nick says that there is no place in healthcare for silos any more – the health of the population takes us all working together on a team for the best result. Technology must facilitate this team approach.

So what’s #pinksocks all about?

This brings us to #pinksocks. At HIMSS15, Nick started giving away pairs of his favorite socks – pink socks with black mustaches – as a gift (one of the 10 principles of Burning Man is gifting). He shared that, “A friend who owns a sock company in Portland makes these socks– I starting giving out the socks at HIMSS15. These socks are an easy way to spot those who are on board with working as a team in healthcare.”

When Nick gives them out to people, he looks in the person’s eyes and says, “I have a friend in Portland who owns a sock company; she’s awesome, and you’re awesome.”

He says, “It’s all about the connection with someone. We’re all connected. The socks make people smile, they start conversations, they facilitate connections. At conferences, it’s a way for those of us who want to change the old ways of doing things to spot each other and connect. Together we can make a difference.”


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Ann Wendel



Physical Therapist, Writer, Speaker, Consultant, Kettlebell Lover. Director of Brand Marketing for @strive_labs and @APTAtweets Media Spokesperson.