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The "Mindful Meter": A spiritual fitness tracker for health care settings

This device draws from existing wearable technology to improve the "care tenor" within hospitals.

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

This idea is designed for providers within health care settings, in order to promote mindfulness during times of work stress, thereby facilitating providers' ability to communicate empathically with their seriously ill patients.

Hospital-based health care, especially in situations of serious illness and near the end of life, is stressful.  The stressors faced within the hospital -- by providers, by families, and by ancillary staff members -- are of varied origins but they ultimately converge to create a "care tenor" (credit to Harvey Chochinov for the phrase) that is inimical to the kindness and person-centeredness that seriously ill individuals face.  Improving the care tenor within the hospital is the subject of another Challenge idea by Dr. Chochinov  ( , and this proposal would complement that one.

The inspiration for this idea came from a number of my colleagues who currently use fitness trackers in their hospital practice, to monitor their "steps" in order to maintain some semblance of fitness, compete with their friends, and generally conform to societal expectations of doctors' hyper-controlling personalities. :) 

I propose that we adapt current "mindfulness tracking" technology (see ) for a hospital setting, to identify instances where providers' stress level has risen to the point where they might benefit from a "mindfulness moment" in order to re-focus on providing an empathic presence to their patients.  In those moments, providers could be gently alerted to the opportunity, and in responding positively to the alert the provider would earn "mindfulness points," which could be tracked graphically and even rewarded by the health system.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

1. Pilot existing mindfulness tracking technology to capture whether it captures providers' self-reported stress. 2. Pilot tracking of spoken provider language, to see if speech patterns and speech tone might serve as signals for self-reported stress. 3. Survey providers in terms of acceptability and desirability of mindfulness tracking and (potentially) intervention.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Would like design input with regard to the mindfulness tracker and feedback mechanism.

Tell us about your work experience:

Palliative care physician with experience in program development/implementation, quality of care evaluation, and health services research.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


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Photo of Doug Wilson

Ken, this feels beautiful to me. Ideally it would be matched to an environment that made it easy to do something about the stress. I'm imagining a Somadome or chapel nearby, but even if it just brought awareness to one's condition in the moment and encouraged breathing or a short walk or stretch, it would seem most helpful. Well done!

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld

Hey Doug! Thanks for the input.  I'd kind of envisioned that the tracker would be part of an institutional program to improve care tenor, which would include training in brief mindfulness interventions that can be done "on the go."  I actually believe that a good percentage of docs already know about this stuff, even if they don't regularly practice it!

Photo of Doug Wilson

Yes, that sounds perfect! Out here in the wilds far from CPMC, a larger percentage of docs would benefit from the training in brief mindfulness interventions ;)

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Cool!  I love this idea.  I really like that you include support by the institution.  We all have our moments when we need a break whether working in inpatient or outpatient settings.  In my experience we do not often get them when needed.  There are techniques one can use in these moments.  MBSR training would be helpful.  Maybe it can be part of the whole program. 
What do you envision as "responding positively to an alert?"  How can the system recognize and allow one to take those moments?  Will staff allow others to know that they need them?

Are you familiar with the technology?  I have never heard of it.  Will check your link!