The Quantified Self movement- democratizing health data

I have been fascinated with Quantified Self (QS) for some time now and believe it will become an important component of healthcare.
QS is actually a company but it is also a concept – a grassroots movement for people to track themselves in every aspect of their health and activity and learning from it.
Basically, it consists of measuring anything (like temperature, eating, caffeine, drugs, walking, exercise) and co-relating it with an output of the body be it physical or mental (like mood, hunger, strength, weight, etc.).

I think it is a revolution in personal healthcare.


In short, tracking an input, measuring some things and correlating it to a measurable output, which finally has some health effects.
This phenomenon has been picked by many companies that make devices to measure things and the software/websites to interpret and display this.
It almost feels like a small bubble in the SF bay area and elsewhere and there are all kinds of startups for this and established companies don’t want to be left behind.
I shall provide some examples of the products in a future post.

One example with myself is that I started measuring and understanding my sleep and its patterns with a device called Zeo – for which you wear a headband that wirelessly transmits a signal that is then interpreted as your sleep level.
You then upload the data to their website and can graph it and slice and dice it.
They even have an automated sleep coach who will guide you through the steps required for a good sleep.

The Zeo taught me a few things that I described in a previous post and I will to continue to learn from it.
I was tracking some inputs and measuring my sleep that would finally manifest as fatigue/energy levels, mood, etc.
So, over time I have a correlation between the coffee at dinner and why I felt grumpy the next day.

This is quite powerful and it may not be obvious in many cases, because only tracking things over time aggregates the data and reveals some actionable patterns.

It might surprise you to know that Zeo has way more sleep data than any sleep lab. Granted it may be a little high-level but it is quite useful from an epidemiological standpoint.
This is true for many online companies and one is finally seeing healthcare data outside the confines of doctors and institutions and so you can act upon things quickly and not wait for an appointment and waste valuable time.

One downside is that the various data points you may be tracking may be in various systems so for eg. your sleep may go on Zeo and fatigue might go on Microsoft Health Vault so it is hard to correlate the two and hopefully we will see some aggregation there which centralize this more.

Anyway, I would recommend you visit QS and see some examples and think about what you can measure and take control of your health.
Start with a simple spreadsheet and picking and choosing the right inputs to track is important.

This is a good video to inspire you in general –
This is a long video and skip the initial intro part.

One very good takeaway from all this is that Healthcare is being democratized and you don’t necessarily need to go to your doctor all the time to understand about your body and condition.
We can connect directly with patients and collectively share experiences and learn about steps taken to address some issues, and that empowers the individual.


About Ra

Software Engineer (worked in corporations to healthcare start-ups), Geek, Musician, Artist, Fellow Human - living in the covergence space of healthcare, software, interaction design, the quantified self and genetics, music and spirituality
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