GE recently released an interactive data visualization that explores the changing face of work in America since 1960. One of the interesting stats to come out of the data was the increase of jobs in the health and education sectors, which increased by 7x in the past 52 years (shown in light green on the below graph).
The Health & Education service industries, represented by light green in the middle of the graph, grew from 4% to 13% of the total labor force from 1960 to 2011.
PSFK’s Consulting Team took a closer look at some of the bigger ideas that are driving this steady growth in the health and education sectors and found that these two industries especially are embracing technology and evolving their thinking to encompass a new vision for meeting the needs of patients, healthcare professionals, students and teachers in the next half century.
In order to continue this push for reform and transformation, engineers, developers and entrepreneurs are finding new challenges and opportunities by stepping outside of their traditional industry roles to design solutions tailored for the health and education spaces.
According to MobiHealthNews’ 2011 apps reports, by the summer of 2012 there will be more than 13,000 consumer health apps and another 6,000 professional medical apps for the iPhone. Companies have begun to use social, mobile, or gaming techniques to move the Health industry forward and appeal to and engage a younger, hyper-mobile demographic, but also to make use of the current technology to assist an aging population. In doing so, the needs of these industries when it comes to the skills of the worker, are changing.
OhioHealth, a hospital group serving central Ohio, realized that many patients weren’t remembering things their doctors told them during office or hospital visits. To combat this problem, and to give patients the information they needed, the group created a smartphone application that gives each patient tailored, custom information, such as how to care for an incision after surgery, or what to expect during pregnancy. The smartphone app empowers OhioHealth patients with best care practices and eliminates questions and confusion that may arise about how best to care for themselves after they’ve left the doctor’s office or hospital. Developers, in this sense, have become the new nurses, taking the crucial medical knowledge of care professionals and packaging it to be accessible by patients outside of traditional care facilities.
This increased access is also helping the younger demographic cope with the business of growing up and all the concerns that come with it. Sparx is a 3-D fantasy game that helps teenagers overcome depression by teaching them cognitive behavioral therapy techniques for dealing with symptoms of the illness.
Developed by specialists treating adolescent depression at the University of Auckland, the game takes players through ‘seven provinces’ related to problems associated with depression- players learn how to cope with symptoms like having negative thoughts, and helps them to develop problem-solving skills, and relaxation techniques through tasks in the game. The platform could be revolutionary in getting through to teenagers who may shun traditional therapy techniques. Gaming experts are now working alongside therapists to create custom treatments that may have more of an impact on adolescents in the long term.
Reaching out to the younger generation is also essential when it comes to education. According to a study published by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 60% of teachers said that using digital games in the classroom helped personalize instruction and better assess student knowledge and learning.
InstaEDU helps facilitate more beneficial learning by matching college student ‘experts’ with other students who need help, anytime of the day. Students in need of assistance signin to the site, search for what subject and topic they need help with, and InstaEDU finds an available, online ‘expert’ who can aid them with their studies. Expert and student are then connected via video chat for virtual tutoring; the first 10 minutes are free, and each additional minute only costs 50 cents. Experts are sourced from the top 25 universities, creating a social, peer-based initiative for tutoring. Experts receive $20/hr for helping students, and the students themselves get low-cost, convenient, real-time tutoring. Students are not only gaining access to education when they need it, but students have the opportunity to double as education professionals and use their skills where they are needed, thereby creating a new structure to the educational system.
Established educational funding methods are also changing. Providing access to education for those from less privileged backgrounds is another place that interactive gaming platforms are exerting influence. San-Francisco based start-up, Grantoo, helps students pay for college tuition by organizing online gaming tournaments. Companies sign up to sponsor the tournament, and students compete against each other in games like online Scrabble or trivia to win educational grants. As seen above, Grooveshark recently sponsored a Wordy Bird Tournament with a $10,000 grant. In addition, each winner is required to give at least 10% of their winnings to a charity of their choice, making Grantoo a helpful tool for both college students and non-profits. Grantoo has turned paying college tuition into a game, taking the popularity of casual games and using the time students spend playing into a force for social good.
Whether it is new funding models, or creative ways of inspiring engagement, it is clear that innovative thinking in the health and education sectors is not limited to simple product development. By embracing new technologies and service models these two industries are changing the desired skill set of their workers in order to be able to offer better, more comprehensive solutions in ways that are changing the current health and education landscapes.