Are the self-tracking folk the next generation of hypochondriac patients?

An interesting comment in the Continua Health Alliance’s Linkedin discussion group:

I wonder if the self-tracking folk are not the next generation of hypochondriac patients?

Today many healthcare costs are made on behalf of a minority of people who turn to the docs at the first sign of aches and pains, while there are many others who just accept a diminishing of function as a natural part of getting older and don’t complain. Specialists love the hypochondriacs and bounce them around the referral system, collecting fees which the rest of us have to pay for.

My fear is when we increase digital navel gazing, accelerated with the advanced screening services (e.g. dna), we are actually pouring fuel on the economic fire. Sooner or later people in our society need help accepting that they are mortal.

To my mind we should focus connected health on situations where it can deliver more independent living and better prognosis for people with real problems, not on helping the self-trackers feel more on top of their hypochondria

My thoughts:

1) The Healthcare industry needs to change it’s tact: What other industry refers to it’s enthusiasts so negatively?

2) Why aren’t established healthcare providers looking to these innovators as the failing edge? How about keeping them away from pooled resources but letting them win/lose on their own merits?

3) Whilst healthcare providers need to move conservatively there’s nothing stopping other industries from getting involved. Why is it a problem if a mobile brand sells these to customers instead of staying focused on selling ever more unproductive entertainment apps and accessories?

4) Why do so many people underestimate and doubt the potential of what self tracking can achieve?

I really wish everyone tried self tracking for about 20 mins as they’d quickly appreciate that manual data entry isn’t going to be engaging enough to be sustainable. Everyone who is getting anywhere in this space (think of sporting developers like Endomondo or wellness developers like WellDoc) are looking at how they can get data without the need for the individual to have to think about buying/carrying another device or having to think about inputing data.

Fortunately we all willingly now carry about ourselves increasingly powerful pocketable computers and in this there is a rapidly emerging sensory opportunity. In the near future our mobiles will provide us with ever more accurate sensory capabilities and before we even start to think about the benefits of this to those who are impaired can you imagine the capacity these extra acoustic/optical/temperature/touch/taste/smell/conductivity senses will provide us with?

5) Why aren’t we seeing the healthcare industry jumping at the prospect of using cheap and reliable “non-medical” technologies to add value eg the mobile based motion detector that was developed for the security industry but has massive applications as a non invasive home monitor for those who are elderly or disabled and want to live independently in their own homes.

What’s so wrong with patients using the consumer technology they already have and use?

6) Why do so many people think preventative mobile health is a zero sum game invented to sell us more?

Whilst it might start off with a few demanding early adopters as we’ve seen before with patients accessing health information on the internet – this will all soon be mainstream. In the 1950’s they probably said the same about healthclubs – back then it would be beyond the imaginations of most to think what the consequences of nearly 30,000 healthclubs being built across America. I bet some critics at the time said things like “of course this is slippy slope when there are 40 million people exerting themselves in these places we’ll end up bankrupting the healthcare system treating all the tennis elbow”.

In the case of mHealth developers I think it’s more likely that we’re in a process where we are inventing the services that will enable the mobile phone to cannabalise the health club experience. In a decade we’ll probably look back at their achievements and think how quaint it was when people would pay a subscription to have somewhere to go to exercise.

6) What’s wrong with the customer being in charge and adding value?

Why do we have to persist with this group think in which the end result will always be “us” doing more for the patient. Maybe letting go of some of the control will mean “we” do less and the patients do more?

Dr John Bachman MD has shown us what can be achieved when Doctors take this approach but Roy Lilley on page 6 of the Winter Edition of the TSA’s Link Magazine highlights the much wider issues with great style.

Looking at why we see so little innovation in the healthcare industry he highlights the lessons we can take from the transformation of 1950’s grocery stops into today’s giant retail stores with bar codes and self checkout tills:

All this progress in the grocery and other retail trades. What’s happening? I can tell you. There is a name for the phenomenon. It is not saving money. It is not sacking staff. It has a very specific little phrase that the retail trade is non-too-keen to talk about. It is known as; ‘the customer adding value to the business’. Got that? We are doing the things that retail staff used to do and it’s us adding value to the business. Neat, isn’t it? Because the amazing thing is, customers like it. They like the idea of darting around the store, they like the idea of self-check out because they are in-charge. And, the one thing about change is; it works provided we think we are in charge… …The possibilities are endless. The kit exists, the evidence is overwhelming and the financial pressures the NHS is under means more than ever before, patients can add value to the business. And, do you know what? They’ll like it. They will like being in charge, in the know and in the loop. They can use equipment; they can press buttons and use the telephone, e-mail, text and Twitter. The patients are there already. Where is the NHS?

About David Doherty
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1 Response to Are the self-tracking folk the next generation of hypochondriac patients?

  1. Pingback: » Could self-tracking lead to mobile hypochondria?

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