James Currier is a technology entrepreneur. As an early proponent of user-generated media and viral marketing, he founded Tickle in 1999, which he sold to Monster in 2004. In 2007, Currier founded Ooga Labs with Stan Chudnovsky to incubate consumer Web companies. Currier is currently the CEO of WonderHill, a casual games company spun out of Ooga Labs, and the chairman of Medpedia, a communications platform for the medical community worldwide. Medpedia operates in association with Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine and several other health and medical organizations.
Currier is a Big Think Delphi Fellow.
Question: What’s wrong with health care today?
James Currier: It goes back to this idea of the distributed systems and a lot of the costs that they have in medicine are related to the centralized control. You always have to go back to the physician to get your prescription. You always have to physically to their office. You have to wait for your appointment. You can't e-mail your physician today. It's 2010 and you still can't e-mail your physician in most cases.
The centralized - the hospitals are incredibly expensive, the way they're structured, the way they merge business models. So this sort of, you know, your records are held at the central location, mostly in paper still. The centralization is crushing is us in terms of cost and it needs to be distributed. It needs to be more fluid. It needs to be more real-time. And building a platform and a methodology for doing that is what Medpedia is all about, is creating an infrastructure, a HIPAA complaint infrastructure to allow pieces of the medical system to increasingly being disrupted whether it's through your Smartphone communication or whether it's through your laptop, whether it's through the phone or whether it's people helping people as opposed to having to go to professionals if you will.
You know, all the time with oversight from professionals because they ultimately have the greatest amount of knowledge but finding out how to balance that distributed nature of knowledge and learning is what Medpedia is all about. You know, medicine is fundamentally an information management problem and obviously the Internet and those things should be applied to it. So that's really the main direction of Medpedia and I think it's a big idea because it is such an issue for - I mean, it's the ultimate issue, right? It's life or death, ultimately. And it's a big issue for this country in terms of its cost.
And it's a big issue in Europe for those people who are having rationed care, who have to wait for months to get some basic care that you would get here in a week. So there's no one system that's working incredibly well but we know that distributed systems tend to allocate resources much better. And so we want to bring that to the world of medicine, and that's why Harvard partnered with us, Stanford, even the British government is now contributing content, gives us advice, helping us navigate the system. We are not medical people, generally we're interface people, we're technology people, and so we're being assisted by all these people who really know what they're doing as to how to navigate and how to build this.
So that's what the Medpedia is about.
Question: How does one use Medpedia?
James Currier: What we're working on right now is the idea that you as let's say an employee of a company where you get your insurance paid, you know, 70 million Americans are covered by the 1800 top largest corporations in America. So the majority of people are getting their care. I think it's 60 percent of people in the United States are covered by their company. So at your company you sign up, you do a health risk assessment, you then have this personal health record that's stored in a HIPAA compliant way online.
From that you are then presented with a bunch of applications like an application on Facebook like an iPhone app that then appeals or is directly relevant to where you are in your medical life, in your health life, and then you can sign up or not sign up. If you sign up your corporation will compensate you for that. It will pay you more, let's say jiff dollars, you know virtual currencies if you will, to do these programs to improve your health, to maintain your health and maintain your vitality. If you do not then the corporation can actually take money away from you and again it's sort of a gaming mechanical applied to your health maintenance, which isn't game specific. It's a gaming mechanic that we all respond to.
All of us respond to those sorts of incentives and we haven't been able to do that in the medical space before. And once you're engaged in these programs on the back end there's a lot of information from Medpedia that everyone is contributing to. Everyday it gets better and better, deeper and deeper, more and more relevant, better and better worded. And if you have a mediocre experience you can go in and make some changes to the database as well so that these services that you're engaged in are getting better and better everyday, every week. And the whole community contributes to it.
And you have a feeling of community around it and a real sense of personalization of the experience. None of which is true today in your experience of your own healthcare maintenance, so that's the world we're moving toward.
Recorded May 27, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
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