Growth of the Quantified Self Movement, Part 2: Going Mainstream

BBC ‘Monitor Me’ Captures the Revolution in Medicine

A fascinating BBC special on the Quantified Self movement with Dr. Kevin Fong called “Monitor Me” created a big buzz on Twitter this past week, and provides a dynamic overview of how health is already being impacted by this trend.

One of the Most Important Trends in Healthcare

Kreyos Meteor Smart Watch

Kreyos Meteor Smart Watch

One of the most important trends in healthcare is the partnership between patients and providers for better health and wellness. That is one of the reasons the “Quantified Self” movement, self-trackers, passive self-monitoring, sensors and wearable technology, matter.

A Patient Mind Maps Ideas for Self-Monitoring and Crohn’s Disease

Nigel H., who goes by the username @crohnoid on Twitter, watched the BBC special, and says it got him “thinking, a lot.” In a post on “Self Monitoring,” from his blog about living with Crohn’s disease, Nigel says:

“Some of you reading this post will be thinking ‘where has this guy been for the last few years. Doesn’t he know this is old news?’ I’ve been aware of the many ‘health’ or allegedly ‘health’ apps available for smart phones but many of them seem to only pay lip service to the category. I use an app myself, ‘Moves’ which monitors how far I travel when I go for a walk at lunchtime. What I did not realise was how advanced/sophisticated some of the monitors now are that can feed information to smart phone, tablet or computer and how wide a range of parameters that can be measured.”

Nigel points out that Dr. Fong was equally surprised by the many technological advances for which we are only beginning to see the potential. So how does a patient think about self-monitoring? Nigel created an interesting mind map that illustrates his ideas. This is a great example of how patients and doctors will need to partner, and define what matters most.

self monitoring mind map

Health Self Monitoring Mind Map Courtesy of @Crohnoid.

The Growth of the Quantified Self Movement

The Quantified Self movement is heading into the mainstream.  Sociologist Deborah Lupton describes, “The rise of the quantified self as a cultural phenomenon.”  She “conducted a search for the term as it has appeared in English-language news media articles in the Factiva database, which archives newspaper and magazine articles (including digital and print articles) from over 8,000 sources from the world’s press.”

Lupton reports that The Washington Post was the first news media to cover “Quantified Self” in 2008. There were only two articles by media in 2009, followed by 21 articles in 2010, 33 in 2011, 148 in 2012, and by the end of July, 2013 – already 188 articles published this year.

Google Trends for “Quantified Self” (blue) and “Health Apps” (red)


Going Mainstream

Affordable tracking devices and apps are facilitating the tracking of daily life activities. But in order to attract the “majority,” technologies will need to meet the needs of pragmatists and conservatives – needs that are typically very different from the innovators and visionaries who first adopt a movement.

Technology Adoption Lifecycle from “Crossing the Chasm”


The Chasm


Integration is Key

There are now more than 50,000 health-related apps on the market, but many are not designed with the end in mind. Corepoint Health CTO Dave Shaver has some pragmatic advice for entrepreneurs developing in this space:

Mobile and application developers chronically make the mistake of devoting only 15-20% of their energy and resources on the integration component, when in reality, that model should be flipped, so 80-85% of initial focus is on establishing a real-world, HL7-based data architecture. – Dave Shaver at Health 2.0 Dallas

Doctors and Data

In order to be effective partners, doctors will also need to learn how to make sense of this data. Seventy percent of physicians are seeing a patient who presents self-tracked data, reports Shawn Dimantha, principal analyst for Manhattan Research. But according to Travis Good of, while 25,000 medical residents are trained in the U.S. every year, none are trained to understand and analyze the amount of data being produced by apps.

Eleven percent of consumers track or monitor their health to manage a chronic condition. Thirteen percent of consumers track or monitor their health or medical measurements electronically to manage weight, fitness or nutrition. These people used to be called the worried well, now we call them the empowered well, Dimantha says. – Beth Walsh reporting on the mHealth and Telehealth World Congress 2013

Interpreting data, and providing actionable feedback

One of the greatest challenges is to interpret data and provide actionable feedback. Can healthcare learn a few lessons from a golf caddie’s app? As a source of inspiration, read about PGA TOURCaddie, a quantified self app. This app has the ability to learn about an individual user’s tendencies, and make useful recommendations, not just collect data.

We are at the very beginning of what promises to be a transformative decade of quantified self innovation. Frankly, I can’t wait.  – Michael Carney, Pando Daily

You can read Part 1 of the Growth of the Quantified Self Movement: Tracking the Self-Trackers here, and look for Angela Dunn‘s 4-part series to continue with Part 3 on Wearable Technology coming on September 11.

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HealthIsCool is a writer and trends analyst. She writes about health innovation, wearable tech, the Internet of Things (IoT), new health technologies, and future trends. Her latest trends research includes: The Rise of Wearable Technology and Google's Ambitions in Healthcare. Follow on Twitter at @HealthIsCool.

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