3 Prominent Evangelists give their Insights into Quantified Self

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The following is an interview with Uwe Diegel, Beate Bartes and Homero Rivas who will be present at the 2014 Doctors 2.0 & You Conference.  Conference founder, Denise Silber told Medcrunch that she was very excited that we would blog about connected health which for her “pulls  together social media and community, apps and gamification in one concept”. She added that “the trio of inventor, patient, and physician, all users of the products provided the indispensable 360° perspective that we love to demonstrate at Doctors 2.0 & You.”

1)  Can you give a concise definition of what Quantified Self is?

Diegel: For me, Quantified Self is any technology that allows you to capture signals from the body and to understand them in a meaningful format.

Bartes: For me, Quantified Self means all sorts of technology allowing people to keep track of their personal and health data, by means of electronic devices like pedometers, medical devices, smartphone applications etc. It makes monitoring weight, body measures, calorie intake, blood sugar, and physical activities easier. This allows better understanding of the functioning of our body (“when I run for 1 hour, my blood sugar goes down from … to … and I burn … calories”), and to adapt our lifestyle in order to meet specific goals (lose weight, lower blood sugar …)

Rivas: It is a lifestyle where people measure and document many aspects of their daily life, especially those related to their health or that would have an impact on their health. People measure many of their vital signs, weight, eating habits, physical activity, sleep, etc., so they can have better information of themselves and become empower in how to use such information to make things better.

2) How does what you do fit into the Quantified Self movement and why is it important?

Diegel: When we launched iHealth, we realized that we had a tremendous opportunity to help people understand the signals of their body. For the last 20 years we have been manufacturing medical devices, but when we made “medical” devices they were basically only used by sick people. This means that they were basically used for reparation rather than prevention. The concept of Quantified Self is defined by people trying to understand their bodies so that they can prevent problems rather than just be subject to them. The beautiful part of the iHealth concept (connected health) is that it does not just manage diseases, but rather manages people. All the signals of the body (blood pressure, diabetes, activity, sleeping, etc.) are all managed by a single platform (iHealth MyVitals), which allows the user to see the various relations between pathologies and manage them better.

Bartes: For me personally, paying attention to my activities and health data is important:

  • To keep in shape, and to self-discipline (do enough sports, eat healthy etc), despite a very active and exhausting life
  • To fight against the beginning of diabetes 2 (inherited from my family), by controlling my weight, food intake, blood sugar and physical activities.

Rivas: As I advise patients to create better habits and to improve daily decisions that would have a positive impact on their health, I inform them that the best way is to learn as much as possible of themselves. A large number of my patients are morbidly obese. As a critical part of their management, they have to implement a strict food diary so they learn what they eat. They also follow closely their weight, the number of steps they walk every day, and for some, many more parameters of their vital signs, physical activity, etc.

Personally, I follow my heart rate, physical activity (steps, distance walked, elevation, etc), weight, body composition, and even my sleep on a daily basis.

3) Why did you attend/speak at Doctors 2.0?

Diegel: Doctor 2.0 is THE event worldwide for the dissemination of the Quantified Self message and has over the last couple of years built an impressive track record in terms of promoting diverse points of view on connected health and quantified self. This is particularly important in Europe, where connected health is still seen more as a “gadget” than as what it is, which is an essential adjunct to better health management.

Bartes: At the past two editions, I’ve been invited to participate in round tables about the role of “e-patients” and patient communities:

2012 : “Epatients : from personal experience to collective action” (French) : http://www.doctors20.fr/2012/06/22/workshop-e-patient-de-lexperience-personnelle-a-laction-collective/

2012 : “the patient 2.0 experience in Europe & in the US” (English) :

http://www.doctors20.com/2012/06/22/workshop-comparing-the-2-0-patient-experience-in-europe-us/

2013 : “E-patients, a multi-country view” (French) : https://www.dropbox.com/sh/7ea06qx6ko9wgfp/y5gap-HxJx

For the 2014 edition, Denise asked me to speak about a totally different subject, which is quite challenging for me: about my personal experience with “quantified self” and how this helps me to improve my health and shape.

4) What are the three top reasons why one must attend Doctors 2.0?

Diegel:

  1. A plethora of interesting talks from worldwide key opinion leaders.
  2. It is the largest dissemination platform in Europe for new ideas on Quantified Self and connected health.
  3. This year will be the biggest and best show in the history of Doctors 2.0 and a number of new technologies and concepts will be unveiled.

Bartes:

  1. It’s one of the only conferences that is truly “Patients included”!
  2. It brings together all actors in the health field: physicians, patients, payers, pharmaceutical companies and public agencies.
  3. It is totally international, and totally “2.0” !!

 Rivas: 

  1. Best conference to find top leaders in Mobile Health and Social Media in Medicine.
  2. You can find a great diversity of top-of-the-art physician innovators and social entrepreneurs in Medicine from throughout the world.
  3. This conference shows the way Medicine will be practiced in the near future,  through innovative business plans that can truly scale the practice of medicine to millions and not just to a few.

5) What topics are you hoping to hear more about at this year’s conference?

Diegel:  The evolution of Quantified Self and Connected Health towards a more professional medical line so that it can be accepted by the medical fraternity not as competition but rather as an incredibly useful tool for patient management. I’m also interested in new technologies that steer away from the regular “wearable” technologies (activity trackers)

Bartes: New digital health tools. New initiatives for the use of social media for health purposes like raising disease awareness, interconnect patients, and crowdsourcing. Also, evaluation of the quality of data and tools.

Rivas: Use of wearable technologies to improve health. Top low cost, high impact Start-ups on mHealth

6) What are three pros about the Quantified Self Movement?

Diegel: The pros are infinite and it is relatively difficult to find the cons. There is an impression in the industry at large that QS is a bubble that cannot last forever, but with the advent of new technologies, which revolutionize healthcare management, I believe that QS is here to stay.

Bartes: They are easy and playful, modern, and exhaustive (a big amount of data in one small device, easily analyzed and shared).

Rivas: The movement empowers the Quantified Selfer to hold his own data, promotes self-engagement, the potential for sharing data and  for crowdsourcing diagnosis and management, and the creation of positive and lifelong habits.

7) What are the cons?

Diegel: For the last couple of years, QS has had a voracious appetite for novelty, rather than for pure science, which is giving it a “gadget” reputation. However, I believe that new technologies are coming that will clear the path for QS to establish itself as a leading force in the future of healthcare.

Bartes: Security/Confidentiality (who can read our data? How can we backup our data?); Risk of misuse/constraint (insurance companies etc.); Digital divide (not everybody owns, or is able to use, a computer/smartphone/smartwatch …)

Rivas: Opportunity Cost; Increase anxiety in users; Excessive information

8) How is the role of the physician changing due to QS?

Diegel: As mentioned previously, there is still very little European interest from the medical fraternity for Quantified Self. However, technology is arriving that will allow for a seamless integration of personal medical and wellness data in the medical records of the patient in the doctor’s cabinet, and this will bridge the chasm that now exists between QS and the medical fraternity. The physician will then be able to use QS as a tool for better patient management.

Bartes: From “paternalistic” relationship (top-down) to partnership: informed, empowered patients can monitor part of their health parameters themselves, participate in their own care (this shift in the doctor-patient relationship is not easy to accept for some doctors …)

Rivas: This is mainly secondary. For the most part QS data will be mostly beneficial for the same user. It serves as an introspective exercise of self-discovery. From time to time, when data is shared with physicians, some important findings can take place, as physicians can understand and have a better perspective of some of the trends of the information shared.

9) Tell us about an exciting discovery you made through QS?

Diegel:  The best examples are normally the silliest ones. I recently released a new generation of activity trackers, and I thought I’d better wear it for a few days to test it. As you know the World Health Organization recommends that you walk 10000 steps a day. Honestly, if you’d asked me before I started wearing the tracker how many steps I took each day, I would have guessed about 8 to 12 thousand. However, when I put on the tracker for the first day and checked the result at the end of the day it was a catastrophe… At the end of the first day I had only walked 3800 steps… I retrospectively realized that I was spending my entire days crouched behind my computers. It is in fact quite easy to walk 10k steps a day. Since that fateful day, I make sure that I walk them every day.

Bartes: I saw how my own decisions (what I eat, how much I exercise, how much I sleep) directly, and immediately, impact my health: blood sugar, weight.

Rivas: Often times my patients follow a strict diary of their diet. These patients are quite proud of such diaries; however some of them are very ignorant of what are good food choices and what may not. By seeing such diaries it is easy to discover why people are either gaining weight or losing weight appropriately.

10) How has QS helped you understand yourself or others better as a person/people?

Diegel:  The most amazing thing about QS is the epidemiological value of the data. We can now run completely anonymous studies using the data of literally millions of people, and this data has tremendous value, especially when stacked against chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and overweight.

Bartes: I saw how different my personal estimations (“I didn’t eat that much today”, “I’ve been walking … km”) sometimes were from reality – by registering all parameters precisely (weighing my food, looking up the calories, lipids, glucids and proteins of each food), I gained a much better knowledge of my own needs. Seeing how physical activity was able to burn calories and to make me lose weight was very motivating, it feels great to be “proactive” – seeing the progress (loss in weight, better shape due to more sports) keeps me going (and my example already convinced several friends, colleagues and patients in my association!)

Rivas: As I mention before, it is an introspective exercise which in my case it has made me learn so much about me and it has empowered me to make better decisions of my everyday life. I become very aware of good and bad decisions, and I try hard to eat better, exercise more, sleep more, etc.

11) What does QS look like in the future? What excites you most?

Diegel: The only way to predict the future is to invent it. The frontier between sickness and wellness is slowly fading away. We are today on the cutting edge of technology, and with the advent of crowd funding, the development curve of product development has accelerated to such an extent that it is impossible to predict what is coming, but whatever it is, it smells great.

Bartes: More and more parameters in smaller, better designed, more easily wearable devices, interconnected with each other (smartphone/smartwatch/tensiometer/pedometer etc). There is need for more interchangeability between the different systems/platforms – guarantee for data safety. What excites me most in QS is its potential to bring new healthcare, new senses, new science, and new improvements to the human experience.

Rivas: Crowdsourcing data analysis with potential crowdsourcing diagnosis and treatment. All of this would be done through platforms of social media.

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Based in Vienna, Anna graduated from Leeds University in 2004 in Politics and French Literature. She then founded a magazine featuring young artists, designers and photographers working in Austria and Eastern Europe. In 2005, Anna moved to London where she spent six years at Google working across several departments, most recently in Sales. In the past year, Anna worked as an interim executive at TV1, an independent news station in Bosnia. She is passionate about investigative, in-depth journalism that exposes problems, illuminates issues and provides practical or philosophical solutions to readers. Anna is a lover of science and is always seeking to learn more about our universe. She also loves cooking and traveling.

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