“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” Lord Kelvin

“Asking science to explain life and vital matters is equivalent to asking a grammarian to explain poetry.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Of course the quantified self movement with its self-tracking, body hacking, and data-driven life started in San Francisco when Gary Wolf started the “Quantified Self” blog in 2007. By 2012, there were regular meetings in 50 cities and a European and American conference. Most of us do not keep track of our moods, our blood pressure, how many drinks we have, or our sleep patterns every day. Most of us probably prefer the Taleb to the Lord Kelvin quotation when it comes to living our daily lives. And yet there are an increasing number of early adopters who are dedicated members of the quantified self movement.

“They are an eclectic mix of early adopters, fitness freaks, technology evangelists, personal-development junkies, hackers, and patients suffering from a wide variety of health problems. What they share is a belief that gathering and analysing data about their everyday activities can help them improve their lives.”


According to Wolf four technologic advances made the quantified self movement possible:

“First, electronic sensors got smaller and better. Second, people started carrying powerful computing devices, typically disguised as mobile phones. Third, social media made it seem normal to share everything. And fourth, we began to get an inkling of the rise of a global superintelligence known as the cloud.”

An investment banker who had trouble falling asleep worried that his concentration level at work was suffering. Using a headband manufactured by Zeo, he monitored his sleep quantity and quality, and he also recorded data about his diet, supplements, exercise, and alcohol consumption. By adjusting his alcohol intake and taking magnesium supplements, he has increased his sleeping by an hour and a half from the start of the experiment.

A California teacher used CureTogether, an online health website, to study her insomnia and found that tryptophan improved both her sleep and concentration. As an experiment, she stopped the tryptophan and continued to sleep well, but her ability to concentrate suffered. The teacher discovered a way to increase her concentration while curing her insomnia. Her experience illustrates a phenomenon that Wolf has noticed: “For many self-trackers, the goal is unknown…they believe their numbers hold secrets that they can’t afford to ignore, including answers to questions they have not yet thought to ask.”

Employers are becoming interested in this approach in connection with their company sponsored wellness programs. Suggested experiments include using the Jawbone UP wristband to see if different amounts of sleep affect work performance such as sales or using the HeartMath emWave2 to monitor pulse rates for determining what parts of the workday are most stressful.

Stephen Wolfram recently wrote a blog illustrating just how extensive these personal analytics experiments in self-awareness could become when coupled with sophisticated technologies. Wolfram shares graphs of his “third of a million emails I’ve sent since 1989” and his more than 100 million keystrokes he has typed.

Anyone interested in understanding just how far reaching this approach may become in the future should examine the 23 pages of projects being conducted by the MIT Media Center. My favorites from this fascinating list include automatic stress recognition in real-life settings where call center employees were monitored for one week of their regular work; an emotional-social intelligence toolkit to help autism patients learn about nonverbal communication in a natural, social context by wearing affective technologies; and mobile health interventions for drug addiction and PTSD where wearable, wireless biosensors detect specific physiological states and then perform automatic interventions in the form of text/images plus sound files and social networking elements.

It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of all this new technology and to start crafting sentences about how the quantified self movement will “transform” and “revolutionize” health care and spawn wildly successful new technology companies.

Jackie Fenn’s “hype cycle” concept has identified the common pattern of enthusiasm for a new technology that leads to the Peak of Inflated Expectations, disappointment that results in the Trough of Disillusionment and gradual success over time that concludes in the Slope of Enlightenment and the Plateau of Productivity. Fenn’s book, Mastering the Hype Cycle: How to Choose the Right Innovation at the Right Time can help all of us realize that not all new technologies becomes killer applications.

Jay Parkinson, MD has also written a blog that made me pause before rushing out to invest in quantified self companies or predict the widespread adoption of this approach by all patients. Parkinson divides patients into three groups. The first group is the young, active person who defines health as “not having to think about it until they get sick or hurt themselves.” The second group is the newly diagnosed patient with a chronic illness that will affect the rest of their lives. After a six month period of time coming to terms with their illness, Parkinson believes this group moves closer and closer to group one who do not have to think about their disease. The third group are the chronically ill who have to think about their disability every day. Parkinson concludes that “it’s almost impossible to build a viable social media business that focuses on health. It’s the wrong tool for the problem at hand.”

The quantified self movement should be closely monitored by all interested in the future of the American health care delivery system. The potential to improve the life of patients with chronic diseases is clearly apparent; whether most people will use the increasingly sophisticated tools being developed is open to debate.

Kent Bottles, MD, is past-Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Iowa Health System (a $2 billionhealth care organization with 23 hospitals). He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of a large education and research organization in Michigan prior to his work with in Iowa with IHS. Kent posts frequently at his blog, Kent Bottles Private Views.

80 Responses for “Will the Quantified Self Movement Take Off in Health Care?”

  1. Chris LeBeau says:


    Is the issue at hand presently that these quantified self studies are done as a one-off by the individual and therefore are not validated through clinical trial studies? Clearly the future of mobile devices looks to be bright. Do you feel that the impetus for widespread adoption by thepublic lies in a lack of a motivator such as a financial one?

    If insurance companies began providing premium reductions to patients or employers that did self-quantify on some level (likely standardized) do you feel this would more likely lead to widespread adoption?


  2. Kent Bottles says:

    These personal analytics experiments are clearly not randomized clinical trials that attempt to eliminate all bias, and so they are not as scientifically sound as clinical trials. It is always hard to differentiate between correlation and causation even when does a double-blind clinical trial. On the other hand, Gary Wolf in the New York Times Magazine article interviews Seth Roberts, an emeritus professor of psychology at Berkeley and an expert on self-experimentation. “‘There is a large difference between what Barbier did and the minimal story of somebody who takes a pill looking for a certain effect and finds it…First, she wrote the numbers down, so the results are not subject to memory distortion. Second, she changed the conditions several times. Every switch is a test of her original theory.’” Barbier is the California teacher I mentioned in the blog post.

    I do not think the critical factor is financial incentive. I think what Parkinson was trying to write about is how lazy many of us are when it comes to health. We would just as soon not think about it at all.

  3. Darrell says:

    However, many bloggers actually overlook one of the most important aspects of their blog,
    this being the actual look and design of their blog.
    As people decide they want to write their thoughts for the
    world to see, it becomes obvious that not everyone is cut out to be
    a blogger. The widget options might be too overwhelming for beginners.

    Also visit my webpage website, Darrell,

  4. It’s awesome to pay a quick visit this site and reading the views of all colleagues about this
    post, while I am also keen of getting familiarity.

    Have a look at my page – stained concrete floors Wesley Chapel area

  5. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired!
    Extremely helpful information specifically the remaining part :) I deal with
    such info a lot. I used to be looking for this particular information for a long
    time. Thank you and best of luck.

    my web site … Seattle vacation apartments for rent

  6. When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is
    added I receive 4 emails with the exact same comment. Is there a means you can remove me from that service?
    Thank you!

    Review my page … anti aging secrets; http://www.youtube.com,

  7. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say great blog!

    Check out my homepage; Pour Le meilleur blanchiment des dents prix

  8. I’m really inspired along with your writing abilities as smartly as with the structure on your blog.
    Is this a paid subject matter or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it is uncommon to peer
    a nice weblog like this one today..

    my blog post surety bail bond companies

  9. Awesome website you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same
    topics talked about here? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get
    feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Bless you!

    Look into my web blog :: bail agent license

  10. castles says:

    Hi there! I just want to offer you a big thumbs up for the excellent
    information you have right here on this post.
    I am returning to your blog for more soon.

  11. q powerline says:

    Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks
    of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to
    protect against hackers?

    My web blog q powerline

  12. chair4u says:

    Hi, just wanted to say, I liked this post. It was helpful. Keep on posting!

    my page: chair4u

  13. Hi there fantastic website! Does running a blog similar to this require a large amount of work?
    I’ve very little expertise in computer programming however I was hoping to start my own blog in the
    near future. Anyway, should you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog
    owners please share. I know this is off topic however I just needed to ask.

    Thank you!

    my web-site … window world complaints

  14. No matter if some one searches for his essential thing, thus he/she wants to be available that in detail,
    thus that thing is maintained over here.

    Here is my web blog: how does bail bond work

  15. I constantly emailed this weblog post page to all
    my associates, for the reason that if like to read it afterward my friends will too.

    Here is my page … personal injury attorney connecticut

  16. Wow! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a entirely different
    subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Superb choice of colors!

    my website; phytoceramides plant based (http://www.youtube.com)

  17. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger.

    I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post.
    Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks!

    Here is my weblog; three stone engagement rings cartier

  18. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

    my website; get home fast

  19. I feel that is one of the so much vital info for me. And i
    am glad studying your article. But want to remark on some basic issues, The website taste is perfect,
    the articles is really excellent : D. Good task, cheers

    my blog hgh spray black label

  20. Hi, its fastidious post on the topic of media print,
    we all understand media is a great source of information.

    my blog post try online dating sites

  21. Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that
    would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  22. Morris says:

    Hi, I think yyour site might be having browser coompatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog in Opera, itt looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer,
    it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heds
    up! Other then that, amazing blog!

  23. Galaxyman, hero of Galactic Quest comic shop,
    where I get all of my comic needs taken care of, chose the
    following as this week’s hottest books for the week of November 10, 2010:.
    Mathews repeatedly claims maybe it’s the combination of the two that are
    to blame. t expecting any payback, but then again, that was the Hollywood version.

    My web blog Bubble Witch Saga 2 Hack

  24. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download
    it from somewhere? A design like yours with a few simple adjustements would
    really make my blog jump out. Please let me know where you
    got your design. Bless you

    Feel free to surf to my web site … consulting firm new port richey

  25. emulateur says:

    Excellent post. I certainly love this site. Stick with it!

    Here is my web site; emulateur

  26. column still says:

    May I just say what a relief to find somebody that
    actually understands what they are talking about over the internet.
    You certainly know how to bring an issue to light and
    make it important. A lot more people ought to look at this and
    understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you’re not more popular given that you most certainly possess the gift.

  27. Melaine says:

    For most recent newss you have tto visit world-wide-web and on the web
    I found this site as a best site for most recent updates.

    My web site; five weight loss (Melaine)

  28. It’s awesome designed for me to have a site, which is valuable in support of
    my experience. thanks admin

  29. kasipo.com says:

    Jusst desire to say your article is as astounding.
    The clarity in your post is simply excellent annd i can assume you are an expert on this subject.
    Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

    My web-site … gifts for childrens (kasipo.com)

  30. Katrice says:

    Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your website and
    in accession capital to say that I acquire actually loved account your weblog posts.

    Anyway I’ll be subscribing for your augment and even I achievement you access constantly fast.

  31. Mention the word free-to-play, and the same PC gamer
    might recoil from his PC like he was hit by lightning.
    Now mostly parents want a cute and small first name for their baby boy or baby girl because old
    trend of using big or rash first names have been declined over a period of
    time. city is a wireless and radiotelephone phone mating that has a line amount pledged to
    it. A lovely reciprocal baby blooming headband will always make any lovable baby girl sometimes cuter.
    The game centers around the collection of different colored
    cards, each with a very cute chameleon on it.

    My site: free cute anime girls pictures

  32. You really make it appear so easy with your presentation but I find
    this matter to be actually one thing which I feel
    I might by no means understand. It kind of feels too complicated and very vast for me.

    I’m taking a look forward in your subsequent put up,
    I will attempt to get the hold of it!

  33. Thanks for finally talking about > Will the Quantified Self Movement Take
    Off in Health Care? | The Health Care Blog < Liked it!

    Also visit my web-site; proform stationary bike (http://www.youtube.com/)

  34. ročne ure says:

    On a watch’s dial there are six alarm confirmation dots.
    The arrangement in the gear train is determined by the amount
    of torque being transmitted, the orientation with the input along with the output shafts, and also the
    size in the gear box. But traditionally, it also has a stopwatch
    function, often called a chronograph, a higher falutin’ word that simply means ‘interval timer.
    Three rows of shimmering white diamonds illuminate the bezel and complement the
    white or black mother-of-pearl dial and silver-tone luminous index markers.
    Portable and Multifunctional Watch Design Wrist Power Charger Battery.

  35. Well not male enhancement pills necessarily the case when you can expect.
    It will allow men tto have sex anytime you feel being just an average size at leeast a
    few clicks away.

  36. I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by
    him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You are amazing!

    Have a look at my homepage … independent production company Wesley Chapel

  37. Debbie says:

    Hi there, its good paragraph on the topic of media print, we all be
    aware of media is a great source of facts.

    Also visit my blog post: webpage (Debbie)

  38. It’s an awesome piece of writing for all the internet people; they will get advantage from it I am sure.

    Here is my webpage; Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au Bon Dieu ? Télécharger

  39. This is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate info… Appreciate your sharing this one.
    A must read post!

  40. Nigel says:

    Hey terrific blog! Does running a blog such as this take a large amount of work?
    I’ve absolutely no expertise in computer programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have
    any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off topic nevertheless I simply needed to ask.
    Thanks a lot!

    Also visit my webpage site, Nigel,

  41. weight loss says:

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your
    website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

    my web blog :: weight loss

  42. WOW just what I was looking for. Came here by searching for pc games

  43. Because the admin of this site is working, no doubt very soon it wkll be famous, due to iits quality

    My web-site – pad premium; http://dewaygo.wordpress.com,

  44. May I simply just say what a relief to discover a person that really understands what
    they’re talking about on the internet. You certainly understand
    how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people should read
    this and understand this side of the story. It’s surprising you aren’t more popular
    because you definitely have the gift.

  45. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles?
    I mean, what you say is valuable and all.
    But think of if you added some great graphics or videos
    to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content
    is excellent but with images and clips, this site could definitely be one of the most beneficial in its field.
    Awesome blog!

    Visit my blog: Diet tips App

  46. What’s Takijg place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve discovered It absolutely useful and it has helped me out
    loads. I hope to contribute & assist other customers like its aided me.Great job.

    My page :: pool city in greensburg pa

  47. Outstanding post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject?

    I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more.
    Appreciate it!

  48. On a watch’s dial there are six alarm confirmation dots.
    Springtime activity works on the mainspring that’s high elasticity because exceptional
    substance Spron 510. Omega had supplied the two British and American troops with designer watches in World War I.
    Giving her a really marketing makes are generally Casio,
    citizen, Rolex together with Swiss. In 1678, Henricus Jones created a timepiece with the expanding and contracting
    minute hand.

  49. npolicy.org says:

    Wow! In the end I got a web site from where I know how to really obtain useful
    information concerning my study and knowledge.

  50. I’ve read several excellent stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
    I surprise how so much effort you place to make
    any such excellent informative site.

Leave a Reply


Founder & Publisher

Executive Editor

Editor, Business of Healthcare

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor

Business Development

Editor-At-Large, Wellness

Editor-At-Large, Europe



The Health Care Blog (THCB) is based in San Francisco. We were founded in 2003 by Matthew Holt. John Irvine joined a year later and now runs the site.


Interview Requests + Bookings. We like to talk. E-mail us.

Yes. We're looking for bloggers. Send us your posts.

Breaking health care story? Drop us an e-mail.


We frequently accept crossposts from smaller blogs and major U.S. and International publications. You'll need syndication rights. Email a link to your submission.


Op-eds. Crossposts. Columns. Great ideas for improving the health care system. Pitches for healthcare-focused startups and business.Write ups of original research. Reviews of new healthcare products and startups. Data-driven analysis of health care trends. Policy proposals. E-mail us a copy of your piece in the body of your email or as a Google Doc. No phone calls please!


Healthcare focused e-books and videos for distribution via THCB and other channels like Amazon and Smashwords. Want to get involved? Send us a note telling us what you have in mind. Proposals should be no more than one page in length.

If you've healthcare professional or consumer and have had a recent experience with the U.S. health care system, either for good or bad, that you want the world to know about, tell us about it. Have a good health care story you think we should know about? Send story ideas and tips to editor@thehealthcareblog.com.

REPRINTS Questions on reprints, permissions and syndication to ad_sales@thehealthcareblog.com.



Affordable Care Act
Business of Health Care
National health policy
Life on the front lines
Practice management
Hospital managment
Health plans
Specialty practice
Emergency Medicine
Quality, Costs
Medical education
Med School
Public Health

Electronic medical records
Accountable care organizations
Meaningful use
Online Communities
Open Source
Social media
Tips and Tricks


Health 2.0
Log in - Powered by WordPress.