Updated on 17 September 2013
Challenges and benefits
The data gleaned from self-measurement must be treated in the context in which it is gathered and without the control over variables that exists in a lab setting. The placebo effect may also play a role. When a user records their mood in a health app, are they feeling happy because their health score was good or is their health score good because they are happy? Correlations in data do not directly translate to cause and effect. But if we feel better because we are making positive changes in our health through monitoring, we should perhaps simply acknowledge the improvement and not ask why.
So what are the benefits? With wearable technology, good health is getting personal. The individual is seeing the cloudy ‘mystery' of staying well lifted and is now awash in self-control, with the power of choice and near-infinite options at his or her fingertip. People from every walk of life are discovering the overwhelmingly positive effect that a closer and more intimate understanding of their bodies can have on well being and longevity. Today, owning one or more of a daily-expanding array of devices designed to describe in detail the status of our health is rapidly becoming a ‘must.' In the past, many have embraced a ‘what you don't know can't hurt you attitude' toward maintaining good health; living in dread of standing naked in a doctor's office and being told ‘this doesn't look good.' But now we have the affordable means to have a ‘check-up' on a daily basis - and in complete privacy.
The potential future benefits are staggering. The self-monitoring trend has real potential to create a feedback loop back into institutions already well versed in the use of metrics. Corporate wellness programs are coming into play as human resource departments realize that a happy and healthy employee is a more productive employee. It is likely that a good percentage of these programs will have a mobile tracking component.
mHealth (mobile Health) now has the ability to morph the way healthcare services are delivered and distributed. This may open the door to virtual or FaceTime visits to the doctors. Fewer in-person appointments would allow doctors to treat more patients more personally and reduce wait times.
More data means bigger and richer databases with piles of information and profiling for biometrics, sleep stages, and physiological responses across many genders and ages. Access to the databases by researchers could lead to more cures for diseases, better health maintenance and disease, and reduced medical costs.
Not surprisingly, companies that are getting into the business of wellness, are doing well. The profit potential is enormous, and eager start-ups along with the traditional major players are cashing in on innovation by appealing to a growing market hungry for products that are new and different. As keeping healthy and fit becomes a lifestyle staple, people with a passion for being active will find it harder to say ‘I haven't a thing to wear.'