September 21, 2014

Health Monitoring Ad Nauseam

So the new Apple Watch promises to monitor our every virtual health status as technology and person blend to become one.  

However, the question raised in the New York Times is whether this level of continuous monitoring is really all that necessary?

"One central rule of doctoring is that you only gather data that will affect your treatment?"

But how can more data hurt you?

- Change in measurements are often normal: For example, "blood pressure jumps up and down in response to thoughts, hydration, and stress."

- Data sometimes outstrips our ability to understand it:  So collecting more and more data may actually end up concealing the needle in the haystack, rather than culling the crucial piece of evidence we need for a diagnosis and treatment. 

- Data can sometimes belie the underlying truth: "Some patients die with 'Harvard numbers, [and in others] test results can can look bad even when the patient is fine."

- Obsessive-compulsive monitoring may actually stress us out: "If you were dieting would stepping on the scale 1,000 times a day help you lose weight?" Perhaps, the stress of monitoring every stat we generate may actually make us sick from fear and worry.  

The point is that as they say, "there can be too much of a good thing"--monitoring and checking is helpful, but not every minute of every day without some intelligent filtering and analysis. 

Perhaps, the technology will evolve to wear the monitoring is unobtrusive and where the artificial intelligence is there to more or less accurately decipher true warning signs from run of the mill changes in bodily functions, and where data is aggregated to get a holistic picture and diagnosis of the person rather than a snapshot of individual functions.

No one can live under a microscope and making ourselves sick with an endless stream of health tracking and worries is not helpful. 

However, in time, the technology will most certainly evolve to where it will be discreet, accurate, and truly lifesaving. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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