April 2, 2013
Asking people to monitor their own health and change behaviors according to their own data -- self-tracking -- is the premise behind a deluge of mobile apps, new wearable devices, and patient services. The practice offers lots of hope for a world where so many ills and diseases are the result of human behavior. But self-tracking isn't a panacea. It's a complicated process, and one that can easily backfire. Just ask the 26 million Americans with diabetes.
In the late 1970s, U.S. physicians began asking patients with diabetes to try something new: Instead of coming to the doctor's office for periodic tests of blood glucose level and blood pressure, the patients were given tools to draw their own blood and glucometers to measure the level of sugar in the blood. Based on these values, patients were instructed to adjust their diets or to administer insulin injections. The patient, rather than the doctor, would be the primary day-to-day manager of their disease.
This was a profound shift. Physicians saw self-management as a way to empower patients and enlist their self-interest as a positive force. But scant attention was paid to how patients responded to their new responsibilities. When they were asked, it turned out that this new responsibility, rather than be a boon, was typically seen as a burden.
Read more at The Atlantic.
(Image via Melica/Shutterstock.com)
April 2, 2013