Well, once again, Google surprises the world with exponential technologies, Exponential Medicine at its best.
Not so much the technology, but the idea behind its use. The Google Health-tracking Wrist Band. Talk about the Quantified Self!
Thinking “outside the box” is the beauty of the philosophy that I believe, runs the GoogleX Research division. Trackers have been around for a while now (since the early weight scales and before). See this excellent article:
Our metrics, ourselves: A hundred years of self-tracking from the weight scale to the wrist wearable device
Nevertheless, only recently, there seems to be an explosion of marketing and PR, and they are certainly getting better.Between the Apple watch, the Fitbit and Misfit families, it seems that there is a gadget to track your every move and many other parameters; one for every taste.
Do they really make sense? Is it worth to know what your heart rate is, how long did you walk, how many “calories” have you burn? Did you sleep enough and “well enough” last night? I’m not sure what the answer is.
I’m all for technology improving and keeping our health, but sometimes it seems that the data we are obtaining, recording and sharing, is really getting us nowhere farther than common sense would.
I do self-track a few parameters with more than one gadget and, in fact, have received several trackers to trial them, even in very early or prototype stages. From Muse to Thync, from Misfit Shine to Fitbit Charge HR all the way to Scanadu and Alivecor, I’m amazed on how far we have gone. I believe that knowing the data helps you be more aware of your body and how your behavior affects it, hence modifying how and what you choose.
The current problem, in regards how these data affects your health, I believe, is the fact that the medical provider is not being kept in the loop. That is exactly the beauty of the current Google move.
By coming up with a device that reads and shares the data with the right players, hence closing the loop between patient and physicians (and Pharma), the data can be put to “good use”.
The fact that this band reportedly will track HR, temperature, ambient light and noise is good, but not nearly enough.
There’s technology out there to track blood pressure, skin impedance, blood chemistries, EEG, etc. If I were Google, I’d go way out to provide continuous readings of as many other “useful” parameters as possible, constantly and effortless streaming to the right targets, so that we can stay or become healthy.
One issue that needs to change, is the current dynamic in healthcare. I don’t think that we have yet the workflow nor the culture to make the best use of the parameters that the tracker could collect. For me, as a practicing, full-time clinician, having these continuous data (HR, Temperature, ambient noise and light) available would be nice, but certainly not “game changing”.
It is a great beginning though, and as long as the channel for the sharing of the information is HIPAA compliant, the tool could be very useful.
Another BIG question: Who owns the data? Well, obviously the patient DOES. There needs to be acknowledgement of that fact. Patient produced, patient owned!
We need to tell the patient what the data is being or will be used for, ALWAYS.
Think about what Insurance companies could use these facts and information for.
What about Pharma? Absolutely.
The name of the game is “Accurate Data“. There will be no more “spot” checks or isolated, temporal recordings of vital signs or variables…it will be a continuous flow. Drug effects will really be assessed in a much more realistic way, hopefully helping to improve the design of better drugs and how their effect is reflecting on the individuals.
In summary, it is a great beginning, but just a beginning. I’m really excited and wish I could be an active part of it.
I’m thrilled about the near future, when a portable-wearable or embedded device will be continuously obtaining health (or disease) variables.
As a physician who frequently needs to make decisions (some of them potentially affecting life-and-death), usually based on intuition and experience, more than on factual and scientific information, a tool like this one is the only reasonable expectation for the Future of Healthcare.