By

David Shaywitz

9
Jan
2022

Beware of the Expert Fallacy, But Don’t Fall Into The Cynicism Trap

In December, a team led by two University of Pennsylvania scholars, psychologist Angela Duckworth (best known as author of Grit) and behavioral economist Katy Milkman published in Nature the results of a colossal study on behavior change. The researchers evaluated the impact of a huge range of behavioral interventions – 54 – that were thought to potentially influence gym attendance...
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23
Dec
2021

Improving Health and Wellness in 2022

As we start to think about 2022 and improving our health and wellness in the New Year, we make ambitious resolutions and urgently try to identify the optimal diet and best exercise program to achieve our health goals. Stop Searching For The One As intuitive as this approach sounds, it’s almost certainly the wrong mindset. What behavior change experts, including...
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8
Dec
2021

Three Core Questions Underlying Durable Behavior Change

Each of us would be happier and healthier if we could adopt and maintain healthier behaviors. Many of us – including providers, organizational heads, community leaders, parents – hope to cultivate healthier behavior in others.    The difficulty we experience attaining these common goals reflects three underlying questions around behavior change. Is the most effective locus of intervention the individual...
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5
Dec
2021

Corporate Health and Wellness Has New Urgency And Vision

Like no other event in our collective experience, the pandemic reminded us of the need for an integrative view of wellbeing beyond traditional measures of physical health. Focusing exclusively on cholesterol level and bone density, for example, would be hopelessly inadequate for the needs of today.  I continued to be haunted by Zak Kohane’s description of the many children’s hospitals...
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29
Nov
2021

Obesity Is Rising; Can Health Coaches & Tech Drive Durable Behavior Change?

As we enter the holiday eating season – quickly followed by the New Year get-in-shape resolution season – let’s look at obesity challenge head-on.  Expert physicians who study obesity recognize the condition as a complex disease associated with profound health consequences. It also represents, for many health tech entrepreneurs, a high-value problem to be solved. Obesity has been ratcheting upward...
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18
Nov
2021

Precision Health’s Next Great Challenge: Behavior Change

Humility may not be the first word you associate with “genetics,” “precision medicine,” and “Harvard,” but it was unquestionably the theme of the day at a fascinating panel this week convened by the Harvard Data Science Initiative. The discussion (video here), was remarkably grounded. It reflected hard-earned learnings from experts who have tried to implement data-driven, “precision” health solutions outside the...
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15
Nov
2021

Motivating a Modicum of Exercise: The Healthtech Opportunity

“It’s been a busy few weeks for product announcements in the world of fitness,” industry observer Anthony Vennare recently commented, citing the latest offerings from the Peloton, Mirror, Tempo, and other digital fitness platforms. On the one hand, these developments are encouraging, offering customers pursuing fitness — and who are willing and able to afford the steep premiums — a...
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7
Nov
2021

Aspiring Healthtech Companies Require A Nuanced Understanding Of Healthcare’s Human Dynamics

The best concise summary I’ve seen of tech industry travails in healthcare comes from Blake Dodge, a reporter at Business Insider. Dodge had just written a piece about Apple Health, and took to LinkedIn to share an additional quote that didn’t quite make the final copy.  “I think they came to it pure of heart, really thinking that they could...
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4
Oct
2021

Pharma’s Digital Transformation: Enduring Challenges, Sustained Hopes, And A Progress Report From Lilly’s CEO

When it comes to emerging digital and data technologies, most pharma CEOs today are singing from the same hymnal. They all emphasize their commitment to digital transformation, and assert that the adoption of digital processes are key to their companies’ success, and vital for the industry’s future.  A recent Lazard survey of healthcare leaders echoes this message. The investment bank...
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20
Sep
2021

What Should I Read? A Few Suggestions for Biotech Pros

Although we are all impossibly busy, most people I know in the biotech industry still make time to read books.  Books may sometimes have a hard time competing with flashier forms of media in the online attention economy, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. This seems especially true now that so many titles are available in audiobook form, enabling...
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15
Sep
2021

Hero Narratives Inspire Entrepreneurs But Obscure Uncomfortable Trade-Offs

In today’s Wall Street Journal, I discuss Reid Hoffman’s Masters of Scale, a new book by the renowned Silicon Valley entrepreneur (PayPal, LinkedIn), investor (Facebook, Airbnb), and podcast host that proposes to distill the secrets of successful business and social entrepreneurs.  The review speaks for itself, of course, but Hoffman’s account, and others like it (there are many – for...
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15
Jun
2021

After Devastating New Study, Is There A Future For Workplace Wellness – And Has Peloton Figured It Out?

This is a story about the tension between what we desperately want to believe and what the data suggest we should believe, and — surprise! — this isn’t about the contentious recent approval of the Biogen drug aducanumab for Alzheimer’s Disease. Rather, it’s about a powerful and important study just published in Health Affairs, examining the outcomes of a workplace wellness program in a...
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27
May
2021

From Fitness To Flourish: Expanding the Scope of Digital Exercise

Sometimes the most relevant digital health companies have the least elaborate technology. More than a decade ago, I discussed UpToDate, a fairly basic medicine e-textbook, served through a web-based app. It was then, and still remains, a go-to site for timely, high-quality medical information relevant to clinicians. There’s nothing fancy about it, it just works. Recently, I discovered a similar...
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15
May
2021

Learning From Post-It: Your Solution Is Not My Problem – Except When It is

A frequent – and frequently correct – critique of entrepreneurs bearing technology is “your solution is not my problem.”  Healthcare – among many other domains, perhaps all domains – has been beset by “solutionism,” the idea that my clever technology will solve your hideously complex problem.  But perhaps it makes no more sense to instinctively reject this mindset as it...
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27
Apr
2021

Quantified Self Redux?

The first iteration of the “Quantified Self” movement largely fizzled out about five years ago. Avid self-trackers, at the time, started to worry they were drowning in data, but lacking in insight.  Today, we seem to be entering Quantified Self 2.0. Once again, an expanding assortment of consumer devices promises to measure every parameter of our health and well-being.  The...
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26
Apr
2021

Liberating Founders and Investors From Narrative Bias

We’re drawn to stories. We understand the world through stories – both the narratives we read, and those we create and develop for ourselves. It’s the very power – the unreasonable effectiveness? – of stories that also leaves us so vulnerable to deception, including self-deception. This is a key message from “Super Founders,” Ali Tamaseb’s soon-to-be-published analysis of the factors...
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2
Apr
2021

Building An Easy On-Ramp For Consumer Fitness

A comprehensive 2018 review of the scientific literature commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services reported that physical activity not only helps you “sleep better, feel better, and function better,” but also “reduces the risk of a large number of diseases and conditions,” including dementia, hypertension, diabetes, and a range of cancers. The report specifically highlights the benefits...
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28
Mar
2021

Needed: Planet Fitness for The Digital World

Digital platforms such as Peloton and Tonal have clearly learned how to use emerging technologies to cultivate healthy exercise habits and a loyal base of fitness-focused customers. These same technologies would seem ideally suited – if presented in the right way – to coax more people off the couch in the first place.  This represents an enormous health — and...
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