In her profile of Digital Health Philosopher John Nosta, Gisele Waters, PhD, describes a nootropic prescription for the entropy, silence, ruts, and obscurity in digital health and medicine.
Wikipedia states that accessibility is strongly related to universal design, which is the process of creating something usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities operating in the widest possible range of situations. John Nosta is accessible on multiple levels. His creativity, thought, science, and humble character all combine to be the drivers of that access. Digital Health desperately needs accessibility, meaningful use, and interoperability. So it is my pleasure to profile digital health’s leading vector.
vec·tor: vektɘr (noun) mathematics/physics: a quantity having direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in space relative to another.
For digital health, John Nosta is exactly that. He is a human quantity having strategic direction as well as magnitude, especially as determining the position of one point in digital health space relative to another. Driven by creativity, thought, and science; John Nosta helps move the entropic forces in digital health by weaving together his poetry, thoughtful rigor, and his scientific experience into meaningful vectors of change for medicine.
Behavioral observation and content analyses were used to develop insights on this extraordinary person from a different perspective - a consumer and researcher’s perspective as opposed to that of a professional journalist. The approach uses two of the many qualitative ways to gain understanding about people and enterprise that can strengthen and augment any profile. In John’s profile, semi-structured interviews were also collected across time for additional depth and insight.
Thusly, I observed Nosta in over 12 videos/interviews and I have analyzed over 10 articles written about him, and studied 15 plus articles he himself wrote for publication. In the past year, I have worked with John Nosta and consider him a good friend and mentor. So there is a positive experiential bias that added some credence to how I perceived his work and accomplishments. Regardless, my general analytical approach, diligence and rigor expended in creating his profile remain consistent. Our experiences together only enhance my understanding of who John Nosta is and what he can bring to the digital health space. I believe knowing him personally actually gives me additional substantial insights as to how MUCH “digital currency” he brings to the table.
FROM EASTERN EUROPE TO EASTCOAST U.S.
Born about a half hour from Manhattan in a mid-size urban city, Perth Amboy, N.J.; John Nosta personifies one of the many success stories of 2nd generation European immigration and American ingenuity. His parents were also born in the U.S. but of Romanian and Polish descent. Like many others, his Eastern European grandparents immigrated and settled in New Jersey to provide their children with more opportunity for professional bandwidth.
His father, John T. Nosta, was an electrical engineer who worked for a public utility company and often brought home “discarded electrical meters,” thus helping John tinker with the electrodynamic universe. Encouraging curiosity with the intricacies of electronics, his father—like many parents—was trying to groom John’s wonder about how things work together in the world.
I might suggest that many engineering fathers often do this with their children in the hopes of recreating their own understanding of how they see the world, systemically and logically. But there are all kinds of engineers in the world and many differing world views and actors needed to bring new engaging citizens into their full potential (Arnett, 2000).
John Nosta also had valuable help from his mother, Rose Nosta. She undoubtedly expanded his balanced approach to understanding the world and added the soft edges found in his accessible humble character. She was the family’s “domestic engineer.” Like many full time mothers, AKA household CEO’s born in 1924 on the cusp of the G.I. and Silent Generation; she dedicated her life to raising John and his sister Nancy, eight years older than her brother. Rose Nosta’s focus was on developing their characters with strong practical values and directing the exploration of their identities with well-rounded principles. In my opinion, mission accomplished.
In the last stage toward adulthood, John Nosta attended a boys’ private Catholic high school, St. Joseph’s in N.J. with 2 notable public figures—Jon Bon Jovi and Jimmy Burke (former Johnson & Johnson CEO James Burke’s son).
He also grew up watching his very creative older sister become an accomplished abstract expressionist painter, teacher, and educational leader of the fine arts. These peers are notable because growing up surrounded by exceptionally creative peers can help define a young man’s curiosity about the role of creativity in life and work. Not always, but certainly in John’s case, his sister must have also contributed to his appreciation for the arts, culture and creative endeavors—such as writing—which I will address shortly.
Nosta’s opinion is that coming from a very traditional, structured and predictable upbringing in Perth Amboy was what laid the secure foundation from which his creativity and curiosity could take flight.
So we begin to get a sense of John Nosta’s key drivers: creativity, thought, and science. These 3 interwoven elements represent significant accretive forces and talents that meet at the time exactly needed (in my opinion) to be able to address the impregnated entropy in digital health. In order to help creatively destroy the legacy walls of medicine; Nosta has to be able to weave words into will, concoct magical collaborations among scientists, and think through entry barriers better than most. I have yet to meet a better man for the task. He has just the right ingredients.
As Albert Einstein says, “you do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Nosta can do this. He can explain the most complex scientific subjects to his and your grandmother, and perhaps even in Spanish! The following are two examples of some of John’s creativity and facility with words that highlight the depth of his comprehensibility. Nosta shares with me that he discovered his love for writing in college. These are self-published works.
In his first piece, Upon the Pyre, the burning embers of love are pitted against the intellectual understanding of a broken love story. At least that is how I interpret it. There are so many unique ways to interpret poetry and only the poet is the true keeper of the meaning designed. But even in college, you can read Nosta’s ability as a wordsmith and can begin to understand the depth of his universal design in messaging—whether in poetry, digital health, or cardiovascular physiology (his affair with the hard sciences). Others who have worked with him observed the same linguistic strength.
John is one of those rare people with a real gift of creative expression. He lives, breathes, tweets creativity. In all my exchanges with him I have found his ideas to be exceptional. He comes from a place of deep wisdom and many years of experience. Besides, he is always helpful and very approachable. I am honored to know him.
- October 13, 2011, Shalini Bahl was Nosta’s client
One of my first memories was being weighed on my pediatrician’s baby scale…..even back then my memories relate to clinical medicine and measurement.
- John Nosta, The Digital Health Maven Podcast, October 2014
John T. Nosta, however, wanted his son to be a doctor. So at the young age of 16, John enrolled in an advanced summer program at Harvard to test his temperature on academic pursuits. He also explored mobile medical trauma by becoming a paramedic and President of the Perth Amboy First Aid Squad. Along the way, he learned Spanish mixed amongst the large Puerto Rican community in the N.J. area during his time with the First Aid Squad. He must have experienced the fragility of life and death as defined by acute care, as his volunteer work engaged him deeply into the science of heart health.
He then went to Boston University as an undergrad with an independent concentration in biophysics (he made up his own major- NOT a surprise). Next, John took a full year off to do research at Harvard Medical School and was mentored by several doctors—including the Chief of Cardiology (at that time) Thomas Smith, MD at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now the Brigham and Women's Hospital).
Some of Dr. Smith’s research, for example, helped shed light on the biochemistry involved in controlling the contraction of normal and failing hearts. Smith also developed a way to measure concentrations of two widely used heart drugs, digoxin and digitoxin. It was Dr. Smith’s idea that John should follow an MD / PhD program which he considered, but never pursued. Thus, learning about cutting edge biomedical innovation was integrated into Nosta’s academic approach from the very beginning of his professional journeys into maturity.
One can imagine the knowledge and wisdom that John gained by “sitting near” a top innovator in his discipline with much to teach and more to share. We can assume that Nosta experienced a variety of Upanishadic moments with his renowned doctors.
Nosta often shares in his live interviews that he left medical research in cardiovascular physiology much to the dismay of his parents—but not before he published with his successful mentors in medicine, and finished at Boston University. If one so young can accomplish this much with the best and brightest so quickly, you can imagine what he can accomplish in the long term. His past publications, co-authored with his mentors, are shared below.
- "Hydrostatic forces limit swelling of rat ventricular myocardium". Harvard Medical School: American Journal of Physiology 1981; 241(5):H740-7
- "Localization of the neurally mediated facilitation of post infarction arrhythmias." Harvard Medical School: Circulation 1981; 64(4):140
- "Detailed analysis of 24 hour ambulatory ECG recordings during sudden cardiac death." Harvard Medical School: American Journal of Cardiology 1982; 49(4):1018
So what do the these journal publications say to the digital health natives and creatives of the world? I’ll tell you what observations I derive from reading the majority of his digital platforms and many of his other works.
If nothing else, publishing in these peer-reviewed journals taught him precision in academic depth, scientific rigor, medical scrutiny, and finally—cognitive resilience. As a behavioral analyst reviewing these titles, in contrast to John’s more accessible poetry and his later business “prose”, I see not only breadth in understanding—but also depth. The above titles represent the foundation from which John’s digital health journey has been derived. These titles certainly lend weight to my theory that although Harvard Medical School teased him into the medical bed; the love affair was perhaps not passionate enough for him to stick around.
While incredibly accomplished for a young man; the publications mentioned could never represent all of John’s true magic. Nosta’s real magic and talents are hidden in his thoughts and expression—his fervor in communication. My suggestion here is that John has always been pulled by the power of words, the need for poetry and creativity, and perhaps even the sentiment that was missing from the clinician’s world. I think his curiosity for the power of words, and about how communication can join both the sciences and humanities together was awakened in his early surroundings.
Perhaps in those moments of rescue while volunteering in the first aid squad, he was not only shaped by the science of medicine and its capacity for good, but also by the humanity of how words connect people to each other during the most crucial struggles for life to avoid death.
John is a gifted thinker—able to see puzzle pieces and the entire puzzle in tandem. Nostalabs is born from his years of working with challenging health issues and opportunities. In countless corporate and brand-growth conversations, John is able to see how health customers, the product journey, and success intersect. In a digital world of convergence, John is a must-have on any team! When John has an idea—listen!
– March 1, 2015 Gil Bashe, Executive Vice President, Health Practice Director, Makovsky & Company.
Not only do many others take notice of his thinking as does Mr. Bashe, but Nosta is often described as the leading “thinker” regarding the direction of the the digital health industry. In contrast to other prominent key opinion leaders in this space, his thoughts demonstrate an unrelenting search for depth in all things—whether related to digital health, or not. In my opinion the thinker as renaissance explorer helps set John apart from many others.
The marriage of great thinking, guts, with technology, big data and genomics just may reboot the entire digital health movement. It can be a redefined movement that establishes a trajectory that makes us all a bit nervous, and in the long run, makes us profoundly different—older, smarter or even something beyond our meager humanity.
– April 8, 2015 - John Nosta
Here, his thoughts are grounded in the everyday feelings, always accessible, but at the same time profound. His sharing “…makes us something beyond our meager humanity…” Often, he seeks to expand our horizons beyond ourselves and encourages an increased capacity in not only our individual power, but enterprise power, and certainly healthcare institutional power. In one of his best talks at TEDx Bedminster, Nosta explains how the human potential for genius is inherently inside every one of us. His supposition is that “Genius is our birthright, and mediocrity is self-imposed.”
He does not believe genius is a fixed reality, but a punctuated experience. Great thought—in other words, genius as experience—is often spontaneous, not a fixed point in time or reality, but rather something profoundly accessible to all of us. Neither is genius at arms-length—but at fingers-length, he posits. Many great leaders and many great teachers would agree that our brains are uniquely and definitely optimized to facilitate thought – endless thought – and even magic! Nosta argues that our bodies may be limited by physiological boundaries to excel at one physical task or another for obvious cellular and biological reasons; but our minds are not limited. Our capacity for thought and imagination is limitless.
This approach to life, humanity—and certainly to manifesting how potential can be augmented in all things—is what, in part, gives John Nosta the rare and much needed ability to work successfully with so many different kinds of stakeholders in business, healthcare, and otherwise. Strength, agility, patience, and determination are all needed to change the history of the medical cognoscenti.
We are way past due decoding the God Complex, because even medical schools are training doctors to be less intimidating to patients and patients are training themselves to be less intimidated by doctors. In the new world of Kriz, Kussin, and Topol’s The Patient Will See You Now, these specific character traits are especially required to combat the entropy, the ruts, and the legacy grooves in digital health and medicine today.
John Nosta provides a comprehensive perspective on the digital health movement. With unique sensitivities to science, consumer engagement and brand marketing, he tells a story that helps drive mindshare and marketshare.
-Eric Topol, MD; Cardiologist; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape; Scripps Health Chief Academic Officer
John Nosta is not a tired strategist seeking the greener grass of digital health, or a parrot KOL that espouses a plethora of derivative messages daily to followers—and he is not just a shapeless optimist about a better future for healthcare through digital initiatives and technology.
Nosta truly believes first in the power of human capacity and second in the power of how technology can improve, change, and augment our medical destiny. And as a scientist, poet, and thinker he will help define, dissect, and deliberate the convergences and dialogue between technology and medical destiny. His excitement and passion for digital health is candidly observable when he talks to others about it. There is no containment for how his soul, heart, and mind work together to help mold the dialogue in this space.
His company, NostaLab warns that advances in technology are disturbing, challenging and empowering a new “social collective” that will change medicine at its very core. Furthermore, his think tank proposes that from data to people, digital health is poised to establish a new medical society driven less by the oppressive hegemony of today’s system, and more by the birth of the citizen scientist and the empowered patient.
Recently, John Nosta was chosen as one of Bionicly’s "18 Digital Health Influencers Shaping Digital Health in 2015." Some of the titles Steven Davies cataloged across media are as follows:
- Top advocate of the digital health revolution
- Leading thinker on where the [digital health] industry is heading
- A digital health futurist & influencer in digital health
- Technologist and creative
- Strategic advisor to the Google Health Advisory Board
- Nosta is also noted as one of the Top 25 2015 Pharma and Big Data Influencers.
- DHP – digital health philosopher – Joel Comm for Cox Business and CoxBlue.com.
Since Nosta’s departure from Ogilvy’s Common Health Worldwide as Chief Creative and Strategic Officer; many journalists, marketers, and interviewers have described him in a similar fashion.
But for this profile, I wanted to probe deeper than everyone else. I wanted to find the key drivers for his core competencies. I wanted to explore: What gives John Nosta such robust digital currency? What makes him a distinctive leader in digital health? I asked him to describe the intentions that brought him to the space. He said:
No one is more surprised than I am about my role here in digital health. Everyone has some desire to help change the world, but my intention was simple. I wanted to use my strengths in communication and science to help leverage digital health into a practical reality.
- February 6, 2015 – John Nosta
Nosta wants to turn digital health into a practical reality, and agrees with Alan Lepovsky that among many other changes needed; the healthcare industry needs collaboration platforms to enable physicians to work together around processes like research, clinical practice, continued education, and certainly digital health and digital medicine.
So digital health ENTROPY BE GONE! John Nosta, DHP, The Digital Health Philosopher will see you now!
John Nosta combines passion with knowledge and delivers more than a speech, he provides an engaged conversation that informs and moves his audience. John's domain knowledge of medicine, technology and marketing make him a keen observer of digital health and only one of a handful of thought-leaders that can clearly articulate the importance of this movement in human history.
- John Sculley, Former CEO, Apple Computers and Pepsi
How many people do you know personally that have as many renaissance talents combined with an accessible, meaningful and amenable philosophy of life and science? I find it very refreshing to be challenged, cerebrally awakened, and encouraged by Nosta’s philosophy of life and digital health.
When speaking to him, the scientist, the thinker, and the poet come together to awaken the mind through creativity, accessible communication and a lovely amenable humility. All of this in spades and hearts he brings to digital health. Don’t go changing, John. I’ll let you know if you do. Until then I’ll bet my venture capital that you will help heal the medical system towards a brighter future.
Consumer Era of Healthcare—The Rules of Engagement Have Changed
Once upon a time there was the doctor who "will see you now." Now there is the "patient who will see you now"—a patient that is empowered, engaged, uber-informed, digitally native—and focused not only on getting well, but preventing sickness and expanding quality of life and longevity.
This patient is already redefining and dissecting healthcare and medicine as we know it. Like it or not. They’re here! And before it was vogue in healthcare (digital or not) to recommend optimal best practices by converging the precepts of CX and UX into a delightful journey that will become the future “UberPX” (my new favorite term, UberPatient eXperience), in 2013 John Nosta was already teaching us “What Healthcare and Obamacare can learn from a hardware store.” He connected the dots before many others and understood that a “happy customer / patient can be a healthy one, too!”
Healthcare is traditionally organized around the usual customs of clinicians and payment mechanisms which—from the patient's perspective—result in fragmented and inefficient care. Furthermore, the content of care is primarily a “reimbursable” exchange that occurs in silos rather than a clinician's response to a patient’s need that changes over time and across settings. Nosta already knew that “ANY business, and that includes healthcare (hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) can benefit from delivering a high level of customer service experience.” The Renaissance Man had already pegged the Re-naissance (French for rebirth) and the democratization of medicine as augmented by technology.
As a patient, I expect my interaction with medicine, doctors, and healthcare to expand my bandwidth of human experience and even add value to my life—not just fix my health problems. Personally, I hope the drive-through-doctor’s-visit changes into a completely different relationship with my doctor(s). But that is another profile for another day. As John Nosta wisely and creatively summarized:
We live at an inflection point of human history in that the evolution of technology – the desire to reform health care, the issues around an aging population, issues of an empowered patient – are all coming together and things are going to change.
– April 6, 2015 – John Nosta, Cox Business interview with Joel Comm.