Have you ever been answering a survey and found yourself thinking, “I wonder if they’re gonna ask about THIS, because THAT’s what’s really important”? Have you ever thought “The people who wrote this SurveyMonkey survey are stupid – do they really think this stuff is interesting?” And my favorite: “Do they really think I’m going to wade through their five minutes of junk? I’m outahere.”
At Tim O’Reilly’s “Health FOO” weekend camp this spring I met Michael Simpson of Traitwise, an Austin startup that’s turning this stuff inside out and upside down. What I love about them is that, as in the best of participatory medicine, they do NOT assume that the researcher sitting somewhere has got it all figured out, and that we should drool with admiration. They make it fun (using game theory), and they even let you suggest new questions.
IMO the best surveys end with “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?” Apparently, Traitwise bakes that in to the whole process. It inverts the whole paradigm of “researcher knows best” and makes it “researcher is eager to find out.”
And that’s what medicine needs, too. I love it. (No, I don’t have anything to do with the company.)
There’s a deeper level: they’ve designed it to detected who among us is similar, based on our responses. (Wise about traits – get it?) Heaven only knows what THAT will lead to, when smart analysts figure out how to sniff down THAT trail.
You can quit whenever you want, but if you’re game (and enjoying it), you can keep going as long as you like. Some people have answered 80+ questions, I hear!
Finally, the thing is smart enough to know when it’s boring, and knock it off. Unlike surveys packed with required questions, EVERY question in this technology has a Skip button, and if too many people skip a question, it gets the message, and stops asking the boring question.
They offered me this sample survey about healthcare related stuff, particularly e-patient behavior. Dive in. Enjoy!