discoveries magazine

Mr. Personality

Bruce Ettinger

Photos: Ted Catanzaro


Bruce Ettinger, CEO of Frame Health, a graduate of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator Powered by Techstars — an incubator for healthcare start-ups. Serial entrepreneur, Emmy-nominated sitcom producer, compliance nerd.

Unconventional Testing

Bruce Ettinger’s software interprets personality test results to identify patients unlikely to comply with physicians’ orders. Frame Health uses these "patient profiles," which fall into hundreds of categories, to tailor specific talking points and other tactics for encouraging people to take medications and follow other diet and lifestyle advice.

A Preventable Epidemic

Ettinger posits that patient nonadherence to medical advice is among the most expensive and harmful of healthcare issues. The numbers he cites to back up his position are distressing: One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that failure to follow instructions causes up to 10 percent of all hospitalizations and 125,000 deaths a year.


Ettinger saw the opportunity to adapt for healthcare the personality test developed by his one-time college professor and "best job coach ever." Robert Hogan, PhD, and his wife, Joyce Hogan, PhD, created the Hogan Assessments, used by businesses seeking insights into how best to communicate with employees. For Ettinger, the connection is clear: "When someone gets diabetes, they’ve got a new job — a series of tasks they need to execute to stay alive," he says. "Doesn’t it make sense for doctors to have the same insights [that businesses do] to help them communicate with patients?"

Family Ties

Ettinger was a producer of Life Goes On, the first primetime TV show to feature a major character with Down syndrome. Ettinger’s sister has autism, and he credits their relationship with helping him develop a strong sense of empathy. "It’s not easy to communicate with her, so it was a constant exercise in how to understand what she said and what she meant. Figuring this out was gratifying."


Almost as a joke, in the 1990s Ettinger designed an electronic kitchen device that would generate meal plans based on interview questions about diet, preferences, and time. "I’ve always been into hyper-personalization," he says.

Evidence-Based Change

Frame Health’s methods have proved effective at Cedars-Sinai. In a pilot study, pharmacists who run a medication-management program increased enrollment by 40 percent when they employed Frame Health-designed scripts during phone calls with patients. Caregivers in the hospital also are using the firm’s evaluations to identify patients with depression, who have a high risk of readmission. Frame Health assessments appear to identify such patients better than current methods, enabling swift intervention. The new model could lead to a decrease in readmissions. "It strikes me as an absolute mega-need for doctors and nurses to relate to people the way they need to be related to," Ettinger says.

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