2021 Wrapped: A Year in Writing And Reading
After the year that was 2020, thinking about 2021 was not an easy task for many of us. ‘Uncertainty’ was the mood definitely at the beginning of the year and continued to be so throughout. Looking back at the havoc wreaked by the variants, the slow uptake of vaccines and the continued flickering nature of the daily lives, I feel fortunate to continue to live an almost normal life. My writing habit took new paths in 2021 and I feel I learnt quite a bit through writing. So here’s a look at my 2021 Wrapped!
Writing about healthcare-Long Form
Through the year, I researched and wrote six articles, two less than the ones I wrote in 2021 (with a good reason, described in the next section!). These articles continue to be my reflections on areas of digital health, many of them closer to the work/research I was doing at that time, including mHealth design, outcomes research and implementation in the real world.
I wrote two pieces as a sequel to last year’s writing and this continuity has definitely helped me further consolidate my thoughts on these topics.
- 👓 Digital Health Goes to Market (2020) and Digital Health Goes to Market-Story A Year After (2021)
- 👓 What got published in 2019 in Healthcare ML research? (2020) and Review of Healthcare AI/ML reporting in 2020: Information, Validation and Replication (2021)
Of the remaining, I definitely would consider my review of gamification as the most rewarding for me personally, as well as based on the feedback I received from readers like you.
This was a kind of mini-review, reviewing at some encouraging evidence, what is missing and what can be the future of gamification in digital health. Here are some nuggets from the article-
- Game design elements exist in about two-thirds of the most popular health and fitness mobile applications.
- Poor Design decisions, lack of systematic evidence collection and undesired/adverse effects seem to be the three main factors adversely affecting the actual impact of gamification on the health outcomes.
- Accordingly, the way forward seems to be in conceptualizing and designing the right gaming elements for the specified user population and use-case, focusing on the desired health outcomes (like meaningful clinical outcomes) and not restricting only intermediate ones(like user retention and engagement) and above all thinking about long-term intended and unintended consequences.
Trying out a new form-Things & Thinks: Half & Half!
Beginning of the year, failing to see a way out of the pandemic lockdowns and incessant remote work, I thought of reaching out to leaders in healthcare innovation, discussing with them about their personal journeys as well as their thoughts on healthcare innovation. I converted these discussions into a short read and christened these editions as Things & Thinks Half & Half. I was fortunate to be able to speak with seven such leaders through the year and got to learn a lot! Here’s one key excerpt from each of these wonderful conversations-
- Edition 1 with Aakash Ganju: Talking about his best bet for future of healthcare-
I think anything that allows us to get to patients and consumers in their homes, in their communities and give them the tools to better take care of themselves and give health care workers the tools to visualize their journey is it’s got a very bright future.
- Edition 2 with Ashima Bhatia: On one of the biggest challenges we will face in healthcare in the next decade-
We can’t hold their (patients’) attention on fancy but nonsensical things; apart from the scientific advantages of your treatment, how you provide that treatment has also started becoming more important.
- Edition 3 with Mahesh Iyer: On the questions he is reflecting on these days-
I am trying to reflect on what is the role that such purpose definitions played in my life so far and how can I shape those for the next decade or so. So the questions I am asking myself are-is it ok to not have all those answers come together? Can I wait for those to come to me over time?
- Edition 4 with Jen Goldsack: Talking about healthcare innovation’s dismal execution record
But how do we get from ‘The Mountaintop of Invention’ to the ‘Mountaintop of System Level Re-imagination of Patient Care’? and that’s only in the US, the global Health Care economy is over twelve trillion dollars!
- Edition 5 with Betsy Garofalo: On betting against a current hype in healthcare
I don’t ever see AI being used completely independently — the programming comes from humans and there will always need to be some kind of quality check.
- Edition 6 with Sarang Deo: On a piece of advice he would give to newcomers to healthcare
If you are invested in the sector, then first learn the sector. Don’t dabble, but really invest yourself, embed yourself in any part of the healthcare.
- Edition 7 with Mohan Raghavan: Talking about his best bet for future of healthcare-
The next big thing will start from the lower end of the technology spectrum.
The critical mass will be gathered from people using healthcare services on their phones, people taking care of themselves from their homes.
After these 7 editions, I had to pause the next set of interviews due to scheduling issues and just getting busier with work commitments. However I hope to re-start the series quite soon.
Writing about healthcare-Short Form
Starting from Q2 2020, I started writing ‘Things & Thinks’-a newsletter bringing together my reflections on the things I end up reading. In 2021, I changed the rhythm of publishing these to once in a month and slowly started giving it a better shape and format. Now, every month’s editions comes with a research digest, where I summarize interesting research being done in digital health. This is followed by a digital health/healthcare innovation news digest. To lighten things up, I continued to add ‘Tweet of the month’ and ‘Chart of the Month’. Quite recently I also added a Longread of the month, featuring the best longform article/blog I read during the month.
The best of this year’s lot is Project Hail Mary , a fascinating science fiction by the author of The Martian, Andy Weir. What I liked the most about this book was apart from the geeky sci-fi world building, the book has a large, beating human heart pulsing throughout the story! Like The Martian, it also has a nice, witty, ‘normal’ sense of humor! Sample this-
We’re as smart as evolution made us. So we’re the minimum intelligence needed to ensure we can dominate our planets.
Some other favorite reads of the year-
- Non-Fiction: Atomic Habits by James Clear: Read with a group of fellow readers, interesting take on how habits are formed and more often get broken…favorite quote-
You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.
- Fiction: Breach by Eliot Pepper: Final book in the Analog trilogy. Favorite quote-
On a borderless planet stitched together by feed, nothing conceals the fundamental unfairness of some people owning almost everything while everyone else fights for the scraps.
- Fiction: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: Another good sci-fi read about a societal collapse and empathy shining the best out of all the behaviors on display. Favorite quote-
We are best when we admit our ignorance up front, and then attempt to fill the darkness of not-knowing with the light of information and knowledge
- Non-Fiction: One Day by Gene Weingarten : Subtitled as ‘The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America’, Weingarten writes fascinating tales of people living their ordinary yet extraordinary lives on a single ordinary day. Really enjoyable read…
- Fiction: Many books from Steven Saylors Roma Sub Rosa series: Sometime half-way through the year, I binge read this fantastic series of a detective in the Roman times.