Key question for quantified self (QS): how do we set incentives to get everyone to capture relevant QS data?
Today, Kent Bottles wrote a very information-rich article about quantified self (QS) on the Health Care Blog. Titled, "Will the Quantified Self Movement Take Off in health Care?", Bottles provides a whirlwind tour of QS with lots of examples and links. Two key pieces are worth pointing out:
He quotes a New York Times article on "The Data-Driven Life", which mentions the four key enablers of QS. Good summary:
- Small electronic sensors (capture data)
- Mobile computing devices (i.e. cell phones, store and compute data)
- Social media (help share and engage with others)
- The cloud (stores everything)
While it is now possible to capture and use data on most every aspect of your life (and there are lots of examples of people who do), why would you? Bottles mentions Jay Parkinson, who argues that "Health and Social Media don't mix". While he doesn't mention QS, he provides a useful differentiation of patients into three main groups with very different information needs:
- Young active people who don't want to think about health issues
- People newly diagnosed with a chronic illness (I would include patients that have an acute disease that needs treatment and management for a limited group of time in this group)
- Chronically ill patients that have to think about their disease every day
Parkinson makes the case that none of these groups have a continuous need to engage about health in social media (and only group 2 will likely do so temporarily), and Bottles concludes that " The potential to improve the life of patients with chronic diseases is clearly apparent; whether most people will use the increasingly sophisticated tools being developed is open to debate."
While that's true, I would add that we (as in public, patients and providers) should focus on how to collect relevant QS data for everyone. People with different health statuses (healthy, acutely ill, chronically ill) will have different propensities to 'quantify themselves', just like people are engaged in their health or disease management to different extents. It is obvious that QS information can help manage health and treat diseases. In an ideal world, health care providers and patient in collaboration would collect all relevant data to make better decision about a patient's health and disease management, including clinical and QS data. And the data would be stored and made accessible when needed with the individual's permission, including for patient care, public health, or other research. The technology is all there. Now we need the right incentives to do it.