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How to advance health technology?

How do we currently advance health technology? How do we identify and promote the best and brightest minds and developers in the world? How do we take those great ideas and translate them to actual pieces of technology that better people’s lives?

I think the last question is the one that I think about the most. I have quite a few “apps” on my iPhone and use very few of them on a regular basis. Of the apps I have downloaded (not native to the phone) I use Radian6, Evernote, ScoreCenter, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and iMapMyRIDE on a consistent basis.

The only health related app I use would be iMapMyRIDE. Why? I have quite a few others…

I just looked in iTunes and there are 4,641 “Medical” apps and 7,202 “Health and Fitness” apps. Surely out of almost 12,000 apps there is more than one I would use on a regular basis…right?

In my opinion the issue has never been, “we need smarter developers with better ideas.” It has been, “how do we find them (or the right ideas) and develop an avenue to get the app to the audience.”

Last week I received a note from my friend Carissa O’Brien (@CarissaO) at Aetna. Carissa is the Social Media Community & Content Director for Aetna and knows I like this kinda stuff! She filled me in on a new method that Aetna hopes will bring fresh thinking to development around their target consumer.

On December 1st Aetna hosted its first-ever RFP Live Design Challenge to attract, reward and contract with top design talent that can help create an application to make life and health care simpler for seniors and their family caregivers. The 3-day event was held in collaboration with Rock Health in San Francisco. It was open to design firms and freelance designers that specialize in user interface and user experience design.

Why a Design Challenge? – (via Aetna)

Aetna currently serves approximately 1 million seniors through its Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Aetna is working to connect health care professionals, patients and caregivers so that they have the information they need to make smarter decisions. The company recognizes the significant and special needs seniors and their family caregivers have. It also recognizes that those needs are complex, so designing simple, easy-to-use solutions – particularly in health care – requires fresh thinking and innovative ideas.

This event – RFP Live Design – is an effort to create a space where designers, a health care company and the consumers can work together – in one place – to create innovative senior care solutions. The solutions will help seniors and their caregivers manage the complexity of health care as well as the activities of daily life in a simpler, more convenient manner.

So what did the winners get?

  • Design Firm: The winning design firm will receive a $25,000 RFP award and a chance to become a preferred vendor with Aetna.
  • Independent designers: Aetna will award two RFP awards for compensation of $20,000 and $10,000, plus a chance for future opportunities with Aetna.

I think this is a perfect example of someone with a stage helping identify a need and then creating a process by witch to meet that need. Aetna realized they needed fresh ideas and though this process will give both design firms and individuals the amplification they need to put new technology in the hands of those who need it.

Great job Aetna! I look forward to follow the future of this and other events.

To learn more about the event visit

– Reed

Author Info

Reed Smith