COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation with Dena Bravata

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COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation - Untold Stories of Innovation

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“Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools that we have, certainly that I have had as a clinician, as an academic, as a policymaker and as an entrepreneur.” —Dena Bravata M.D., M.S., co-founder of Lyra Health and Chair of Castlight Health’s healthcare advisory board

From today’s episode you’ll learn:

Why do stories matter to the innovation process? What values can be instilled in innovators who share stories? How do innovation leaders inspire creators to tell and share their success and failure stories?

Dena Bravata is co-founder of Lyra Health and Chair of Castlight Health’s healthcare advisory board. She tells us about three of Castlight’s innovative digital health responses to COVID-19. These include the largest national registry of coronavirus testing sites in the United States, a self-assessment for those experiencing symptoms, and a city-specific dataset on vulnerable populations and medical capacity. Everything is publicly available on their website. Fortunately, local public health officials have used these findings to inform capacity planning within their county at the zip code level. People can rely on these digital health solutions, which could ultimately have a lasting impact on the future of healthcare.

Today's Guest:
Dena Bravata Headshot

Dena Bravata, M.D., M.S. is the co-founder of Lyra Health, a pioneering company helping patients with mental health concerns get the care they need in a timely and cost-effective manner. She was formerly chief medical officer and head of products at Castlight Health (NYSE:CSLT).

Dena has more than 20 years of experience as a health technology entrepreneur, business executive, health services researcher and physician. She has led clinical, product management, product marketing, and data sciences teams for academic organizations and both private and public companies. Dena graduated with a BS from Yale, an MD from Columbia, and a MS in health policy research from Stanford.

Listen to the Podcast - COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation
Podcast Transcript - COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation

This episode, COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation is powered by data storytelling training from Untold Content and Data+Science. Transform your data into powerful visual stories by learning best practices in data visualization and technical storytelling. Whether you’re a PowerBI or a Tableau person—or just want to better communicate your data—this workshop will inspire you to see the stories that lie in the data. Learn more at

Katie [00:00:04] Welcome to Untold Stories of Innovation, where we amplify untold stories of insight, impact and innovation. Powered by untold content. I’m your host, Katie Trauth Taylor. Our guest today is Dena Bravata. She is co-founder of Lyra Health, a pioneering company helping patients with mental health concerns get the care they need in a timely and cost-effective manner. She’s also on the board of several digital health and health tech startups and is Chair Castlight’s Healthcare Advisory Board, at Castlight Health, which is a health care navigation platform. Dena, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Dena [00:00:43] Katie, it’s my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Katie [00:00:46] It’s been a joy to get to professionally work with you for several years now. And I think we just need to start, I think, with this connection around the COVID-19 pandemic and the world that we’re living in right now. How are you? How are things in Silicon Valley? How is life changed?

Dena [00:01:06] Well, first, let me just say, it has been so fun to get to work with you and your whole team. And it’s a real honor to be on your podcast today.

Katie [00:01:15] Thank you, Dena.

COVID-19 Digital Health Innovation

Dena [00:01:15] With respect to the novel coronavirus, I mean, my life and the life of everyone I know and all of you know, America, the world, has changed. For me as a physician, I am not seeing patients currently. My identical twin sister is. All of my med school and residency friends are very much on the front lines. They are getting sick. Some of them are intubating other colleagues of ours. It is a sobering moment. For my own sake, I’ve been working during this response time largely with the Castlight team. And Castlight is a company that is very near and dear to my heart. After I left academics, it was the first kind of entrepreneurial experience that I had. And so I’ve been connected to Castlight for 11 years. And I’m so proud, actually, of the work that we’ve been able to do there, not just to serve the needs of users and customers, but we’ve been making data and evidence publicly available and have built some amazing tools that we can talk about today if time permits. And I just—I am so proud of organizations like Castlight—there are many others—that are really like not thinking so much about the bottom line here but are really thinking about how can they bring their data, knowledge, other assets to bear, to serve the community. And so I feel that it’s a privilege, frankly, to be able to use my skills to help in that way.

Katie [00:03:06] First of all, thank you for sharing the status update on your community and your friends and colleagues. And I know that all of our listeners and the world really is incredibly grateful to everyone on the frontline and are mindful of the sacrifices getting made. So I’m sorry to hear that—what a huge challenge this has been and what a toll it’s taken. But I’m grateful, extraordinarily grateful. So thank you. And I’ve seen—I want to dive right into some of those projects that you’ve been working on with Castlight, because I think it’s so timely and it’s so important. I’ve seen some of the work come out on Castlight’s social media on LinkedIn. You’re doing a lot of work with data analysis around vulnerable populations with COVID-19. Is that right?

Dena [00:03:52] Yeah. Well, maybe so I think that there are probably three projects that I’d like to quickly tell you about.

Katie [00:04:00] Innovation stories like this is what this podcast is all about. So let’s hear it.

Dena [00:04:04] So the first thing that we did and this was about a month ago now was to ask the question, what does it cost people to get an—for care at this time? And so the actual test for covid 19 will likely be covered, will be coverage. It remains unclear how much of the rest of health care will be covered. And some employers, so for some people who have commercial insurance, their employers will choose to cover it. For people who don’t have insurance, obviously, that, you know, who knows what will happen in reality when the dust settles. And so we looked across a number of cities in the United States and we asked the question, how much would it cost to get tested with a nasal swab and maybe an office visit for people with varying degrees of severity. So some people who just had mild to moderate symptoms all the way through to people who were quite severe and showing up in emergency rooms. And what we demonstrated and made publicly available was a dataset that showed the degree of variance in cost valuated for people’s symptoms. So how severe their symptoms are, where they go for care. So if they get started with a telemedicine visit or a doctor’s appointment or go to an urgent care or E.R. Third, what city they’re in. And then even inside a given city, what the degree of variance is. And so hopefully that report can really help inform people to the extent that they have a choice about where they might go for care, should they have alternatives available to them.

Katie [00:05:49] OK, so first of all, can you tell us where can we access this report?

Dena [00:05:53] Oh, yes. So everything I’m telling you about is publicly available on the website. And yeah, so and that’ll be the case for the second thing that I’d love to tell you about.

Katie [00:06:03] Yes, please.

Dena [00:06:05] You asked about vulnerable populations. And so what we did was an analysis. We took a sample of the claims from about 7 million people from the Castlight dataset. And we asked who among those people are at greatest risk for severe disease should they become infected with the Coronavirus? So these are people that have increased rates of hospitalization, ICU care and fatalities. They include things like diabetes, kidney disease, immunosuppression and so on. And so what we did was we asked the question, well, where did these people live? And mapped that and we mapped that against the ICU bed availability in each of those areas to be able to—to help identify, especially in the early days of this, the pandemic affecting counties and cities around the country. Where are those highest risk populations where you have people in need with relatively little ICU capacity, ICU beds and ventilators? And the analysis, interestingly enough, I mean, I think, you know, in the early days, we heard quickly about Seattle and New York and this analysis, which we made, again, publicly available, we made interactive maps publicly available for employers and people and health officials to use really highlighted that cities like Detroit, New Orleans, San Diego, Charlotte, cities that hadn’t sort of been in that first wave that were really publicized were actually very vulnerable on the basis of the population and the ICU capacity to meet their needs.

Katie [00:07:54] Wow. Incredible. Have you been getting much feedback from city leaders and how public health officials and employers in those areas yet on this data?

Dena [00:08:03] Yes, we have. And, you know, and I think this is such a dynamic like evolving epidemic. And so the information needs that those responsible officials have really buried over time. And I think that it was gratifying to see that people were able to use our information to help with specific search capacity planning. Also planning for employers, for example, planning for return to work, which is kind of the next phase that we’re all facing now. It was also interesting, I think, because Kessler was sort of uniquely positioned to be able to do this work. And so it was very gratifying, I think, to hear local public health officials specifically be able to see like within their county at the zip code level. Well, this makes sense why we have some hospitals that are not seeing very many patients compared to other hospitals that are really getting close to overwhelmed.

Katie [00:09:05] It’s been an incredible experience to see businesses realign their mission and their efforts toward this global need. And so to see, you know, a lot of other manufacturers trying to make PPE. And to see an organization like Castlight, which is committed to data transparency and cost transparency around health care services. Could you speak a little bit to Castlight’s mission and how these innovation projects emerged in the midst of the outbreak?

Dena [00:09:37] Yeah. So, Castlight’s mission is to help individuals navigate their health care benefits so that they can really get cost effective care from the right provider and not get too much care but understand what is needed for their own well-being and to frankly maximize their benefits. And which I think is a great segway into the third project that I love to tell you about.

Katie [00:10:05] Yes, I hadn’t forgotten.

Dena [00:10:05] Which is that we noticed in the dataset that these users who rely on Castlight to help navigate where should they go for various health care services? We noticed that they were looking for, where should they go to get a coronavirus test? And so I was seeing these data come in and every day—so this was, you know, I would say in early March. We were starting to see this happening. And I kept thinking like, surely the CDC or someone would make a national registry of test sites publicly available. However, it just wasn’t happening. And so we kicked off a project that has become just a gigantic effort and have created the largest national registry of coronavirus testing sites in the United States.

Katie [00:10:58] Wow.

Dena [00:10:58] And I have to tell you, Katie. Right. Like as somebody who’s worked largely for either health care organizations or technology companies, you would hope that this could have been a largely automated process. And it has been a completely manual process. And we’ve learned a lot along the way that actually test sites that we’re working one day about 7 percent of test sites that are up and running one day, stop working the next day. You know, the sites that have every intention of working over the long run will run out of test kits themselves. And so they have to shut down. And so this is something that has required an army of people basically phone verifying and establishing relationships with entry. And this has been such gratifying work. I have to tell you, because, in addition to, again, making this publicly available, we have also given the data and the links to the dataset and test finding tool to health plans. It’s up on the Anthem home page. We’ve given it provider systems. It’s up on a number of provider systems. DaVita, a large provider of care for very vulnerable people with end stage kidney disease. It’s up on the Department of Health of the state of Michigan so that all Michigan people can use it to find test sites. And it’s powering other search engines as well, including Google’s search for test sites.  And so. So the onus is now on us to make sure that we really continue to have the highest quality data. And I think there’s something also important about being stewards of the limited test capacity that we have a country right now and providing people with very clear guidance, not just where to go, but what it is that you need to have done before you show up at the site.

 In some cases, you have to have a sample done by a provider or a note from your provider that you need to test. In other cases, it’s sort of more of a one stop shop and you can show they can do the whole thing for you. So that’s been very interesting work. And we can combine the data around where test sites are with our work on vulnerable populations.

Katie [00:13:26] I was just going to ask you, so knowing you and having the huge honor of getting to work with you on so many projects. My next question is, what’s next? Because I know that that’s always as you kick off any new initiative. I know you’re always thinking five steps ahead. So how are these data sets? How might they complement one another? What might we learn next?

Dena [00:13:46] That’s a great question. I think the nation is now getting ready to ask questions about lifting some of our shelter-in-place regulations. How can we bring the economy back into action? How can we all return to work and to do that as safely as possible? Those are the kinds of questions that are on everyone’s mind, including mine. And one thing that we certainly can do is to be part of some of the state and local regulations around thermal monitoring. So what’s someone’s temperature? What symptoms do they actively have and what exposure have they had? And with Castlight, we developed a self-assessment tracker. So somebody can sort of explore their symptoms and get guidance as to whether or not they should seek care or stay at home or seek emergent care, depending upon how severe their symptoms are that they’re reporting. I think tools like that can now be translated into return to work guidance and with the use of either just consumer grade thermometers or much fancier Bluetooth thermometers, for example, those data can inform return to work policies. I think a very interesting set of questions will come up around the extent to which employers do or don’t actually want to know the answers. Right. I think by and large, employers want to be at arm’s length from the actual clinical information about their populations. Right. And maintain that privacy. But it’s very interesting to see the extent to which some employers actually will want to know on an individual, identifiable individual, basis what someone’s temperature and symptoms really are.

Katie [00:15:40] And that many public health officials are now saying that that’s a requirement that you have to screen for those things before allowing someone to work in physical locations, right?

Dena [00:15:49] Yes.

Katie [00:15:49] So there may be also just the public health need for that information to no longer be completely private.

Dena [00:15:58] Right.

Katie [00:15:58] Strange world, I’m sure. Right.

Dena [00:16:00] And it is. Yeah. And I think you’re also getting into some of the very interesting contact tracing where that’s obviously the obligation has historically been the purview of the public health officials to do contact tracing. But given the scale of this pandemic, this is not something that public health officials can do and require—I think innovation and cooperation on the part of enterprises and individuals. It’ll be interesting to see how companies respond to incentivizing people to actually tell the truth. And  there are powerful disincentives for doing that. Right. If you believed that, you know, if you can’t go to work and you can’t get a paycheck, your incentive to tell the truth or, you know, take a Tylenol before you have your temperature measured. It may be very different.

Katie [00:16:56] I love that point because in those ways, innovation in this new world we’re living in does not only include the next technology or the next vaccine or—it also involves processes. And on a human to human level, how are we going to engage with each other? How are we going to—even things as simple as thinking about whether the high five might go away for at least a really long time. And then at a more serious level, of course, like you said, how an employer might set up. I love that idea of it sort of reminds me of some of the conversations that we have around failure and shame that can come with a failure or a medical concern. Right. These are all things that sort of have shame or yet feelings attached to them.

Dena [00:17:42] Yeah, absolutely. Along those lines, I think, you know, I’ve been hearing people propose some ideas, very well-meaning, where someone might wear a bracelet or might be asked to wear a sticker, for example, that identifies them as either having had the virus and being immune or somebody who, you know, has never had the virus and lacks immunity. And you sort of wonder, is this the new scarlet letter? Right. You know, and what is the stigma associated with any of these kinds of public displays of someone’s personal health information? And surely we can use technology and other policies and processes so that, you know, vulnerable people should be able to stay out of the workplace and not put their colleagues or their children or elderly folks without inducing this kind of like new way in which we might stigmatize members of the population.

Katie [00:18:47] Stigma has been a constant issue related to this pandemic since the very beginning, especially in some of the rhetorical choices. Calling it the Chinese virus created a lot of misunderstanding that it was maybe only going to impact Chinese Americans or that being, you know, make you sick. And of course, those were all misunderstandings and misrepresentations and a lot of them even had racist undertones or outputs, at least, even if that it wasn’t the intention. And so thinking about ways that we can innovate against the stigma, I think is really critical now.

Dena [00:19:24] You know, I think work that you and I have done together, looking at populations that have mental illness, right, is I think in a pre-covid world was certainly an example of where selected members of the population were facing enormous stigma. And in terms of other things that I think are important for us to be thinking about right now while we’re still sheltering in place and encouraging people not to go to the doctor unless they absolutely have to. Worried about people who have, for example, behavioral health conditions where they might not be getting the care they need. People who have—and we see, for example, Express Scripts put out a report just earlier this week showing dramatic increases in antidepressants prescriptions. We also know that domestic violence is on the rise. There’s increased evidence about child abuse. For families that are struggling, for parents and children who are home from school, living and working together in close quarters. And so I’m worried about what are the other populations, not just people who are sick with Coronavirus that are at risk at this time. And what—how can we think ahead to who those populations will be? Right. So there are many people who have had surgical procedures, you know, of the musculoskeletal nature or of a cardiac nature that have been put on pause. What’s happening to these people now? You know, for some people, hopefully they’ll figure out, well, actually, you know, maybe I didn’t need the procedure after all. We know that sometimes that’s the case. But, you know, now that we’re delaying care, will there be, you know, this enormous need coming up the minute the hospitals begin to open up for these folks who have delayed surgical care, cancer prevention, care. Right. Are we delaying the diagnosis of important conditions or are we doing the treatment of important conditions? And what can we be doing now using telemedicine or other outreach to try to minimize some of that? And how can we be thoughtful about opening up parts of the healthcare system to enable people to get the care that they need, but not to expose them to other patients with rhinovirus, for example?

Katie [00:21:47] Yes, exactly. I think digital health now is suddenly not just something nice to offer. It’s absolutely critical to being able to continue to serve people’s medical needs no matter whether it’s covid related or not. You know, one of the other critical elements besides ensuring that telemedicine is working and it’s working well, both synchronously and asynchronously, you know, having the capacity to meet one-on-one virtually with a provider in a synchronous way is really important for creating adherence and building relationship with that provider and getting a full, more holistic kind of diagnosis and treatment plan. But also asynchronous. So how can we continue to talk with our doctors at heart that we do with one another and sort of leave each other message right. And come back to and we can. So that’s all very critical. And I also think communication and if you are a health services provider at this time, you can’t over communicate. There’s so much information, there’s so much creativity that you need to continue exercising to make sure that you’re reaching the populations in many different creative ways. So. So one quick story I’ll share with you, Dena, because we have connected over the last few weeks as we’ve both been in our own worlds. We’ve been working with the Action Learning Network, which is a global network focused on helping parents and families of children with heart failure. And there aren’t that many cases of pediatric heart failure. The world, luckily. But because there’s so few cases they needed to form a collaborative across different children’s hospitals to work together, to come up with the best practices. What’s the state of the art? So as you can imagine, the families of children with heart failure right now and organ transplants right now are definitely concerned, even though some of the statistics and the data around children with covid 19 seem optimistic because children don’t tend to get sick as frequently. But there’s also that question of what about children with preexisting conditions like heart failure or kidney transplants and other kinds of heart transplants. And so I’m so proud of the work that—that’s what we’ve been focusing on at Untold over the last few weeks, is working with the Action Learning Network to create content for families and children to help them get their questions answered and help make all of this make sense to children as best we can to say this is what six-feet feels like. It feels like a professional basketball player. That’s how much space you need. And here’s how to take care of your mental health right now. And here’s how to have a telemedicine visit and why it’s going to be really fun and also how to deal with those more pressing concerns like how ah, how is lab work going to happen now for those children and what is critical care or not? And if you do need to be in the hospital, what’s going to be different. What should you expect? So there’s—I just don’t think it’s possible at this moment in time to over communicate or to have—or for creativity to be stifled. I think now’s the time to lean into all of that, which is why, of course, I’m incredibly inspired by the evidence-based and data-driven work that you made happen with a team at Castlight Health. It’s unbelievable.

Dena [00:24:58] Thank you. You know, I’m so pleased to hear about the work that you guys are doing. And I think that, you know, those little guys with how you rate—like they represent, you know, this next wave of vulnerable populations. And also, frankly, I think we just have so much to learn. About how this infectious disease or other conditions are affecting different kinds of vulnerable populations. One of your comments made me think of something which is a question that would be fun for us to talk a little bit about, which is how has the changes that people have been making. As you say, creatively adapting to this new world, which of those changes do we believe will stick in a really positive way? And I think you and I have done a lot of work with provider systems together. And so we see among provider systems, a statistic from Stanford recently is that they had less than 10 percent virtual visits last year. And as of March, they’re seeing close to 70 percent in primary care or virtual visits. I just think that the role of telemedicine now that people are seeing not just a telemedicine provider who is disconnected from the rest of their care, but their actual doctor who is part of their hospital system and where they get their labs done now that they’re able to see them and engage with them virtually. Why would you ever go back? Right.  And, you know, Medicare changes in regulations that have happened in a temporary way around, you know, as part of the coronavirus response. It’ll be interesting to see whether they get reversed or implemented permanently now. But I have to believe that telemedicine will never go back right, like, that fundamental changes will be happening there.

Katie [00:26:59] I absolutely agree. So the convenience of that, the opportunity it affords to have more frequent contact with your provider to build more trust again among providers and patients. I think there’s so much that can be a forward. You mentioned the use of Bluetooth technologies. And, you know, we’re obviously seeing an increase in health tech around wearables and measurement devices that can enable the sort of seamless communication of insights from the patient to the provider. And that can then allow for alarms to trigger check-ins in a way that, you know, would sort of depend on patients’ transparency and comfort communicating, sometimes, that type of information to providers and whether that’s because of shame or fear or just, you know, having a lot going on in their lives. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity and similar to what we see right now in education and in the business world. I’m not sure we’re going to go back to massive conferences the way that we have in the past. I’m not sure—I believe we’ll go back to the classroom in education, but I think that being forced to think about hybrid models of teaching and learning and being forced to move their classes online will hopefully increase comfort with those methods of learning as well.

Dena [00:28:20] Yeah, I agree. And I think, you know, I’ve been spending my time more with the benefit leaders of large self-insured employers as they think about kind of some of them return to it. And in some places like the state of California has made it, at least for right now, business—don’t even think about business travel right in the ways that we used to do. And so, you know, people seem to be doing fairly well, actually, with Zoom calls like where you and I are having today. Right. And so there are, I think, many ways in which our lives will change. And, you know, frankly, like these things that we’re talking about now seem frankly for the better.

Katie [00:32:39] I don’t know I’ve heard that story. Is that OK?

Katie [00:29:00] Yeah. I think if we can look for the silver linings, we’ll survive from a mental health perspective. So, Dena, tell me this, that you can answer this in light of the pandemic or just in light of all of your experience as a startup founder, as a physician, as someone who has been intimately involved with data and evidence collection in support of really the evidence that backs up health care and technology companies.  I would love to know where you see storytelling involved in that work and what your perspectives are. I think I know some of it personally because I’ve had the honor of working with you. But yeah. Could you. Can you tell us a little bit about your thoughts on story and data, how they live together?

Dena [00:29:51] Absolutely. Well, I think story first, you know, it’s just essential to communication as humans. Right. And so my belief in my experience is that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools that we have, certainly that I have had as a clinician, as an academic, as a policymaker and as an entrepreneur. And, you know, I think that clinicians are trained in a very particular kind of storytelling. So we, you know, in the earliest days of medical school are trained to ask a patient a set of questions and translate those into a story that’s told in a very structured way that then leads our colleagues to understand what our thinking is about the status of that patient’s past history with our today and what we believe is ailing them and the plan that we have in place. And so I think that for me, storytelling as part of my professional life, as you know, in that way, has really been from the very beginning. [63.3s] You asked about sort of the intersection of data and storytelling. And I think, you know, so I was an academic for many years. And even in an academic article, there’s a structure to that. And there’s an elegance. And it really is storytelling. And I think that if you read some of my colleagues are frankly like beautiful storytellers and they do it in that more structured way, which is what is the problem that they’re trying to solve and why is it important? And what did they do and what did they find? And how should the world interpret that finding? That’s the storytelling of kind of academic peer reviewed publications. And I would say that in the sort of the business world as an entrepreneur, I began almost every meeting with some new people. potential new clients or new investors, often with my story of why did I found Lyra, right? What was the story? Not just like what is the problem around you. know, the gravity of mental illness in the United States and who it’s affecting and What are the costs. But why am I interested in that? And how did my interest in that shape my particular perspective about the solution that I was interested in helping to craft? 

Katie [00:32:35] And could you share that with us, Dena?

Dena [00:32:38] Oh, sure.

Dena [00:32:41] Oh, yeah, absolutely. So Lyra is a mental health, as you said, technology and services company. And I think that people believe that mental illness is not something that’s treatable, and yet it is the opposite. There are very effective both men med pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical, psychotherapeutic interventions that can be helpful to folks. And I was interested in getting more people access to those therapies. And the reason why I was interested in that is that I personally have been really blessed with a great deal of resilience and a robust mental health. But in my family, there is a clear genetic distinction between there are a few of my family members who have my same kind of makeup. But my dad, my stepdad, three of my other step siblings and nieces and nephews have all died of suicide. And so there is this very strong history of mental illness in my family that has, you know, is clearly genetic in nature. And among some of my younger nieces and nephews, some have really benefited from the therapies that are available later when I was a primary care doctor. As I think most primary care doctors in the United States, I took care of people with their depression and hypertension and diabetes and mental illness was very, very prevalent in the populations that I cared for. And I think that because I was taking care of people, their depression or anxiety, plus their blood pressure and their cholesterol, it was a lot less stigmatizing for me to be the one to help prescribe medications for them or refer them for psychotherapy than if they went to see a mental health professional. That somehow meant that they were really sick or crazy. And then when I was at Castlight, I saw in the claims and in the analyses of the companies—for the companies that I was doing around what was driving their unnecessary medical spending. Frankly, it was untreated mental illness, often comorbid with common medical conditions. That then was the sort of main motivator for me wanting to be a co-founder of Lyra to really provide early access expert care to people in need.

Katie [00:35:17] It’s incredible. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. And I know I cut you off. You’re about to say something else about data and stories and how data can be interpreted. But before the description of Lyra. But I’m really grateful to hear that larger reason why. And just to pause that for one more second, I think when we do content analysis of different startups and what brings their success, of course, there has to be—it has to work. There has to be evidence that it works. But also having a bigger why is almost always part of the founder’s story and the leaderships stories. And I think in order to pull the best talent into your startup and grow it, that needs to be true for each person you bring on, for them to understand their big why, why it matters to them to be doing this work and bring that passion with them. So thank you for sharing that. I think it’s a really critical part of innovation storytelling. But you were about to say something else about data.

Dena [00:36:17] Yeah, I think the other thing I was going to say about data is that the interpretation of data. So, the thoughtful collection of data. So what is it that we’re going to measure? Shouldn’t be driven out of the story that we want to tell. Right. Because I think for those of us who have kind of been in the business of doing this for a while. Right. Like that is ultimately at the end. Right. When we’re trying to answer a question, we collect data to try to answer that. Now we do the analysis, OK, and now we’re going to package this up in whatever format, be it some academic journal or marketing materials or just an analysis that we’re gonna use to change our own business practices or improve our products. Right. We have to ultimately be able to tell a story about what our recommendation is and why. And I think that that, you know, being able to think ahead to that story informs how you design the data collection process, who you’re going to involve, and all of that. And I think that if you don’t take the moment to think about the story that you want to tell at the end, you will with certainty not— you’ll collect too much or the wrong thing or, oh—

Katie [00:37:34] Yes. Oh my goodness. So, I’m thinking of a million stories that you and I have engaged in—to get a million, I should say, maybe not a million, but at least several dozen research projects that we’ve collaborated on for health tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Katie [00:37:48] And one that comes to mind that I think portrays this really well—what you just said is—we were asked to measure provider satisfaction at a health tech company. And instead of just, you know, finding out sort of typical ways that—we did, we research typical ways of measuring job satisfaction. But then we dug deeper into provider satisfaction and then found research to show the provider burnout is such a difficult challenge to navigate and that doctors burnout really quickly in community-based care. And our suspicion, our hypothesis was that in these digital health companies, providers were burning out less for several rounds. And so we didn’t just measure satisfaction in sort of the typical way. We also implemented validated measures for burnout into that same survey. So then at the end of it, we were able to see, yes, this is true, our hypothesis was proven. And that was a story we were looking for in the beginning. But if we hadn’t set out with that intent to measure it, we would have never had that story. 

Dena [00:38:47] Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great example. And also a fun project that we did together.

Katie [00:38:54] It was so fun. Everything we do together is so fun. Dena, I’m so happy we got to spend some time together today talking. This has been incredible. Perhaps. Could you share with us some pieces of advice that you might give to future innovators as they look to share their big ideas?

Dena [00:39:12] I am loathe to give advice. I don’t feel myself to be so expert. I think the one thing that I would say with respect to your specific discipline and storytelling is that often the greatest innovations are—can be—need to be told in a very simple way. And I think the advice that I would give people is, so often I hear from young innovators this very kind of complicated preamble. And there and what they’re going to do it like is going to affect this very kind of nuanced or intricate kind of part of some complex system. And I think that when I ask them questions about various parts of that story that they’re explaining to me, that a much simpler narrative comes out of that and that that narratives can be much more of a guiding principle around not just their future product direction, but a little bit around the motivation for why they’re doing what they’re doing. And so I think maybe I would say I’m thinking ahead to the story that they want to tell about their company, their innovation, whatever it is, might be useful. I think it certainly is useful from the very earliest days and throughout the press. 

Katie [00:40:41] I love that. But that’s so incredibly true. And make sure that you see the forest or the trees, as it were. We didn’t even get to talk about stealth research and health care unicorns and the way—.

Dena [00:40:54] You’ll have to have me back.

Katie [00:40:55] You’ll have to come back. We’ll have to do another conversation specifically about, you know, why data matters so much in health care startups especially, and why we hope to see more publications and more reliance on evidence in that world.

Dena [00:41:10] Yeah. Well, thank you so much for having me. It is a real pleasure chatting.

Katie [00:41:14] Dena, can people find you on social media?

Dena [00:41:16] They sure can. Linked-In, Twitter.

Katie [00:41:19] Awesome.

Dena [00:41:19] Yeah.

Katie [00:41:20] Okay, great. Be sure to follow Dena Bravata. All of the incredible work happening at Castlight Health, Lyra Health. And Dena thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Dena [00:41:31] Katie, thank you. And I hope that you and your family and your delightful colleagues stay well during this continued days ahead.

Katie [00:41:39] You, too. Thanks, Dana.

Dena [00:41:40] Thank you. Bye-bye.

Katie [00:41:42] Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Be sure to follow us on social media and add your voice to the conversation. You can find us at Untold Content.

You can listen to more episodes of Untold Stories of Innovation Podcast.

*Interviews are not endorsements of individuals or businesses.

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