An insightful post by Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet Project called "What's the Point of Health 2.0" was stuck in my mind all week. For the people already living their lives as "e-patients", the concepts we talk about here at The Decision Tree simply make sense. They'll say, "Of course I should track some aspect of my personal health". Or, "Why wouldn't I engage with other people on the internet who have a similar medical condition as me?" But what about the rest of the people out there? How can I best convince them of the power of the Health 2.0 movement? In her post, Susannah said that Esther Dyson helps her understand that even though the Health 2.0 crowd is relatively small right now, these e-patients provide a glimpse of how powerful and interactive health care can become in the future.
For similar reasons, expecting moms give me hope for the future of Health 2.0. They constantly read up on the latest baby health information. They post comments on blogs, forums, and social networks, sharing insider tips and trends.
Last week, I attended the quasi-monthly San Francisco Quantified Self meetup. We had yet another spectacular night of presentations by people who are tracking some aspect of their life, whether it's health data, fitness trends, or a complex analysis of how they spend every minute of the day. The meetup was hosted by MedHelp, a company that's created a large medical social community. I was particularly struck by their presentation on their suite of personal health trackers, which included a 'Pregnancy Symptom Tracker'.
With MedHelp's online application, women can easily track the symptoms they're experiencing, such as morning sickness, fainting incidents, and mood swings. But in true Web 2.0 fashion, the true power of the application is realized when users share their data with others. By pooling the data of many users, MedHelp is defining, in near real-time, the norms of pregnancy. For example, their results show that morning sickness peaks around week 8, but falls off rather quickly later in the pregnancy. Fainting spells are far more common right before birth than at any other time. Alas, there's no relief from mood swings. They occur in 40% of women, and are fairly constant while pregnant.
I hope that in the future, data like this will arm people with the information to decide if a certain symptom is normal, or whether it's time to see a doctor. After all, making decisions based on data will not only help people save dollars at the doctor's office, but will also lead to better health.