How can data help us live better, healthier, more fulfilling lives? This is the challenge of the 21st century and many of the answers are easier than ever to access. As tracking tools become more commonplace real health intelligence can be done at a scale that goes beyond the individual to analyzing and helping whole populations.
Tracking your steps has become a fascination for just about every demographic with a cell phone and it is changing the way people think about health. At TED@Cannes, Gary Wolf presented the idea of the quantified self by showing the pervasive cultural shift to using mobile apps and wearables to track and analyze your body, mood, diet etc.
I’ll be honest about where I stand on the ‘Quantified Self’ question. I own a smart water bottle that tracks my hydration levels and adjusts based on the information it gets from my activity/sleep tracker and local weather information like temperature and humidity. It also sends me witty text messages reminding me to drink more and glows if i’m off schedule. I do all this because I am really bad at drinking enough water and even though I often fall short I am able to get a proactive understanding and motivate myself much better. I’m not nerdy enough for the smart hairbrush just yet, and that’s mostly because the technology doesn’t seem ready to handle my curls.
All of this to say that data is power. But that power can go far beyond the navel-gazing of posting a healthy breakfast on instagram when we apply that data to populations with specific risk profiles like the elderly.
CarePredict is a part of a technological movement taking the Quantified Self and changing it into the Quantified Patient, the Quantified Resident, and even the Quantified Caregiver. By analyzing trends at scale with artificial intelligence and using machine learning to understand an individual’s particular habits, we can go beyond counting things like steps and calories retroactively and predict events like falls, depression, UTIs and more before they happen or progress to the point of needing medical attention.
For more specialized tasks, there are also smart diapers that detect illness, digital pill dispensers that prevent overdose, and even tv headphones so seniors with hearing loss can enjoy their favorite shows with their loved ones.
This new technology can change the way we think about care completely. Instead of restricting activities to provide a uniform safety across patients with different risk factors and rushing between them once danger has already come, we can shape activities that grow strength and independence with a real awareness of when and how we should take precautions. Recovery from falls and other health issues can be long, difficult, and never fully complete, so preventing these events where we can will allow people to live better and longer lives.
By quantifying daily life activities, we can actually allow caregivers and their patients more time and energy to focus on living quality lives.