Physician perspectives: Jennifer Shine Dyer

In our latest physician perspectives interview, pharmaphorum’s Hannah Blake speaks with physician and mobile health entrepreneur, Jennifer Shine Dyer. 

Our latest physician perspective is with stylish endocrinology physician, Jennifer Shine Dyer. Jennifer has been a thought leader in the mobile health space for many years and has created three mobile health apps, including the popular diabetes app, EndoGoal. We ask Jennifer about the importance of mobile health and how it can be used to help overcome the big issue of patient adherence.

Interview summary

HB: Hello Jennifer, it’s lovely to speak with you. To start, please can you tell us a little bit about how you became involved in the healthcare industry?

JSD: Sure, thank you for having me on this great series. I became interested in healthcare really from a young age, but I started pursuing healthcare when I was in college, which was then followed by medical school. I was going to be a journalist if I didn’t get into medical school, so communication is something that I have always been passionate about. In medical school I really enjoyed paediatrics and endocrinology, because I thought it was a happy ending field where patients can be engaged and empowered with information, and then can live full wonderful lives despite having endocrine problems. So that’s really what drew me into paediatric endocrinology.

HB: One of the biggest issues in the industry at the moment is patient adherence. Why do you think this is?

JSD: Patient adherence is a huge problem. People don’t want to need healthcare or to have health problems. People with diabetes really just don’t want to have diabetes, especially teenagers, and even mums who are just really busy and put their own health really low on the list. In diabetes, patient adherence is a complicated facet, and the reasons are many, but it’s a significant problem because it is something that affects the longevity of our lives, the quality of our lives, and increased healthcare costs.

“Patient adherence is a huge problem. People don’t want to need healthcare or to have health problems.”

HB: Your main focus is on diabetes, so how has the rise of the e-patient and social media usage by pharma helped to increase awareness in this area?

JSD: Pharma has the resources to bring together good communicator stakeholders, and I think that the role that I see in pharma and social media is to bring together excellent communicators in the diabetes space. And, to date, this has really helped mobilise a very strong group of people that have diabetes and want to see the best innovations. So really it’s a market force that can help communicate quickly and efficiently what’s working best in the diabetes space from a patient point of view. And I think that pharma bringing together all of those people at various events, and being one of the leaders in communication for these stakeholders, helps facilitate that, make it quicker, and make it more accessible so that the average patient with diabetes can know what is the best thing going on in the diabetes space, and that helps the entire marketplace.

HB: Since 2010, you’ve created three mobile healthcare apps – what inspired you to set up these apps?

JSD: I was inspired to create these apps by the fact that my patients were not taking their medications. I know, as both a patient and a physician, that striking fear about all of the potential problems that can happen with not taking your medications does not work for behaviour change. So I started trying to meet patients where they are, and where my patients are is on their phone. So on their phones texting is where I started, and texting I found really helped at first to motivate my patients to take their medication better. But I found over time that texting didn’t work, it wasn’t enough, and so that’s when I developed my app programmes.

“I started trying to meet patients where they are, and where my patients are is on their phone.”

My most recent app, the EndoGoal app, is a rewards platform with a social business model. This app is a response s to what I learned after texting my patients stopped working. I asked my patients why texting stopped working and my patient told me 2 things: they’re just not motivated to check their blood sugars and they felt that their family and friends just really didn’t get how hard it was to take care of diabetes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So EndoGoal addresses these 2 concerns by providing a platform where friends and family can sponsor their loved ones with money donations, and then the user with diabetes can cash in their points once a week that they earn from checking their blood sugars for real money rewards. So that’s how I got involved in the mobile health space – by learning what works and what doesn’t work, and right now EndoGoal is my primary product because I know it’s what works.

HB: How important is mobile health for patients today?

JSD: I think mobile health is an extension of the idea of meeting patients where they are. So if patients are bowling every day then I think that healthcare needs to be also very involved with bowling. But patients are on their phones, and that’s why mobile health is powerful, because it’s meeting people where they are, and that’s always going to be the right answer.

HB: Do you have any more ideas for mobile health apps on the horizon?

JSD: I certainly do have lots of ideas, and to think of the application as rewards and reward incentives is really powerful for chronic disease, and I certainly hope to explore that in more disease states. I also am really interested in food technology, gaming, and social media for behaviour change to tackle obesity. Those are all on the horizon.

“…I see the role of the physician changing as towards being more of a social worker…”

HB: Sounds good. In your opinion, what needs to change in order for the relationship between pharma and physicians, and also between physicians and patients, to improve?

JSD: I really admire pharma for a lot of different reasons; the medications, the innovation, the research and development that goes into creating lifesaving medicines is wonderful, inspiring, and a critical part of the solutions I am able to give my patient. And I think that pharma focusing on meeting the patient where they are, just like mobile health, is always the right answer. So I love that there are services for my patients that pharma provides when my patients have difficulty paying for things. I love those programmes, I think all physicians love to have even more tools to give patients that are needed beyond medication, such as healthcare cost containment services, so in just giving them information about the product. As a physician, if my patient is well informed and empowered with the ability to obtain their medications, then I think that’s a win for everybody.

HB: Finally, do you see the physician’s role changing in the future with regards to the upsurge in social media usage and mobile health technology?

JSD: Yes, I see the role of the physician changing towards being more of a social worker in the sense of providing the knowledge about different paths to achieve patients’ goals. And social media makes that really easy by disseminating information really quickly and finding new and evolving pathways or programmes for patients. Even I’ve noticed myself as a physician becoming more of a coordinator of social programmes that help my patients have better access and adherence to their medications.



About the interviewee:

Dr. Jennifer Shine Dyer is a pediatric endocrinologist in private practice in Columbus Ohio, an accomplished behavioral researcher with a MPH in health behavior studies, a mobile health entrepreneur having created the award-winning EndoGoal Diabetes Rewards App, and a social media enthusiast (@EndoGoddess). She is a thought leader in driving data-based health outcomes and behavior change with mobile health, gaming, and social media which she has discussed at The White House, Doctors 2.0 & You in Paris, TEDx, SXSW, Stanford, Mayo Clinic, mHealth Summit, and Harvard to date.

Dr. Dyer began developing apps to automate her successful weekly SMS texting protocol that she used with her teen diabetic patients to improve their insulin adherence. All of her app programs are evidence-based using BJ Fogg’s health behavior model. As an entrepreneur, she created the startup EndoGoddess LLC in 2011 which entered into partnership with a larger Ohio mobile software startup, Duet Health, shortly thereafter. Duet Health, named after its doctor-patient focus, is a mobile software startup in Columbus, Ohio producing evidence-based mobile solutions for hospital systems, small physician practices, pharmacies, insurance companies, and medical education companies since 2009.

Using seed funding, together they developed the EndoGoddess App in 2011 and then the EndoGoal App in 2012 (available for ios / android download) for patients with diabetes who require insulin therapy and need motivation for glucose and insulin tracking. The EndoGoddess App was designed to provide iTunes rewards specifically for motivation of teenagers. The EndoGoal App was then designed to reach a larger demographic base by offering broader rewards such as prepaid visa cards and / or retail gift cards with retail partners. The completed EndoGoal App Rewards Program with a one of a kind transaction process is currently in storyboard format and being prepared for the build of the transaction process by non-profit technology company, Groundwork Group. Groundwork Group, also in Columbus Ohio, has extensive experience with building original web-based and mobile platforms for fundraising through sponsorship of individuals in athletic events often utilized by nonprofits.



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