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Let consumers be the innovators

Ryan Amin

Advance directives are commonly used for end-of-life medical decisions, but through consumer research, MyDirectives' co-founder Jeff Zucker has learned they can be used to instantly make life better for all users, and not just those near death.

MyDirectives allows enrollees to create and update their advance medical directives, and documents are stored in a secure database that is available to enrollees and their medical treatment providers. The way users have utilized MyDirectives enlightened Zucker on how consumers in the market think.

"The American consumer is historically known for being innovative and incredibly creative," said Zucker. "There is no doubt that the consumer has driven innovation. If you try to anticipate every move and reaction of a consumer, you are going to miss an opportunity to learn from them."

A moment that stood out for Zucker was when a woman used MyDirectives to let someone close to her know how to take care of her cat if anything should happen to her.

"We were completely surprised someone would use our system like that. Her directive has nothing to do with specific medical situations, but she chose to use it to teach someone how to care for her cat," Zucker said. "Another person used the system to upload playlists he wants to listen to if he is in intensive care. Those are not doctor issues or lawyer issues, but it is a consumer issue to have peace and live a better life."

Another lesson Zucker learned from his consumer research was that the notion that advance directives are only associated with the elderly and those near death needs to be eliminated.

"We used our research to get into the minds of the consumer, and we realized we were asking questions at the wrong time,"; he said. "You're not creating a directive because you're about to die, but you're doing this because you want to live, and that's what all adults should do over the age of 18."

Other insights from Zucker:

Balance knowledge gained -- "Any entrepreneur has to know you are doing something no one else has done," said Zucker. "You have to learn from the experts and ask them questions, but you have to recognize that if you are doing something innovative, you can't do exactly what the experts have done."

Benefits of having a co-founder -- "It is a system of checks and balances," said Zucker. "I don't run off in one direction without him pulling me back and vice-versa, and that makes for a good team."

Photo by Elvert Barnes

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