By Patricia Flatley Brennan, Director, Project HealthDesign
Last week Gary Wolf, a contributing editor of Wired wrote an article for the New York Times Magazine titled The Data-Driven Life. He captures how people take data from their everyday life and translate it into actionable information. While the article was great, it often framed this as a geeky, niche-obsessive activity, whereas for those with chronic health conditions, it can make all the difference in improving their health and the quality of care that they get. My letter to the editor in response to the article is below. I'd love to hear your comments as well.
While many self-trackers manifest the ‘‘odd habits of the ultrageek,’’ the practice of harnessing our data is quickly gaining momentum and transforming how we manage our health, especially among those with chronic illnesses.
Doctors are experts in clinical care; patients are experts in their daily experiences and how they make them feel. Both need to share more with each other — and technology that gathers and communicates personal-health data can help bridge that gap. We’re exploring the power of ‘‘observations of daily living,’’ testing whether the digital capture of weight, pain, sleep and gastrointestinal symptoms can guide ongoing life and care decisions of people living with Crohn’s disease. Or whether overweight adolescents, using smart phones to track eating and activity, plus measures of emotional well-being, can overcome obesity and the depression that so often accompanies it.
For the health potential of the ‘‘quantified self’’ to be realized, we must integrate people’s self-generated data into their medical care. Doctors will then be better able to work in tandem with patients to realize significantly better outcomes in their health and quality of life.
Patricia Flatley Brennan, R.N., Ph.D.
Program Director, Project HealthDesign