Cautionary note about self-monitoring, Quantified Self

Posted on 3rd April 2013 in health, Internet of Things

I’m terribly excited about the potential for #IoT self-monitoring devices and their potential to change the relationship between us and our doctors from an episodic, one-way thing into a continuous dialogue in which patients are empowered  and really able to work with our doctors to increase wellness.

Having said that, this Atlantic article by Thomas Goetz is an important cautionary note. You see, diabetics have been there, done that — and, for the past thirty years they have seen self-monitoring of their glucose levels as more of a burden than an opportunity. As Goetz writes:

“In the case of diabetes, the distaste falls into three categories: Self monitoring for diabetes is an unremitting and unforgiving labor; the tools themselves are awkward and sterile; and the combination of these creates a constant sense of anxiety and failure.”

Not very pleasant, and not very encouraging for the Quantified Self movement.

Goetz draws some important conclusions from all three problems:

“Each of these issues offers lessons, not just for diabetes, but for healthcare overall, as we look to patients to start paying attention to their own bodies, start pushing Fitbits and other devices upon them. First, self-tracking needs to be as effortless and automatic as possible; friction is the enemy. Second, the tools need to be designed with the consumer in mind, not the clinician. The best practices of consumer electronics need to be applied, and the data needs to be kept in the background whenever possible. And third, it’s essential that self-tracking address the emotional needs of the patient, not just their rational side. At the end of the day, self-tracking needs to be a positive experience, because it is such a demanding one.”

I don’t think we should have second thoughts about the need for advances in self-monitoring (just wait until the Rest Devices Peeko Infant monitor “onesie” starts saving infants from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome!) but the experience of those who have been doing it the longest must be respected, and Goetz’ cautionary notes should be posted in every QS device lab!

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