PlaceMe: A Creepy Model For Health Information?

Data, information, interpretation and decision-making are among the vital components of prevention, diagnosis, management and treatment.

The problem we have today is how to gather and manage the data that our bodies radiate.

In order to solve this problem, we have to surmount other problems – which are not just technological but also behavioral, cultural and financial.

But if you want an idea of what an extreme version of data-collection might look like, check out the application Placeme.

Now Placeme is *not* a Healthcare application. What Placeme does do, however, is to continually (in almost real-time) track the places that you visit. No check-ins; no need to enter and data – the application simply runs in the background and does its magic.

When you think about that (from the cultural perspective of today), that’s creepy.

And yet, this “creepy” model is the future. It represents the technological and cultural arc that social software is throwing us. We can fight it (and should in order to flesh out the nuances so we can ensure safety) but in the long-run we shall have to accept the trend and work accordingly.

So think of Placeme in terms of what the ‘Quantitative Self’ movement is attempting to achieve.

Let’s call a Healthcare analogue of Placeme Healthme. For example:

  • Recording glucose readings (from a ‘tweeting’ glucometer)
  • Cardiomuscular activity (pulse monitoring)
  • Environmental sensing (pollutants, pollen count, barometric pressure, etc.)
  • Visits to healthcare facilities (‘tweeting’ EMRs)
  • Social-bonding activities (support group meetings, online discussions, etc.)

The list of possible ‘Places’ goes on.

It’s a ‘creepy’ model in the sense that once this kind of collection begins, your life is being measured.

I’m not a big believer in applications for Healthcare as big parts of solving our problems.

Rather, I’m in favor of robust approaches that integrate the whole process of Healthcare Care – not just at the individual level, but also at the public level.

The problems in Healthcare are not the problems in front of us.

If we want to tackle the overall disease of bad health, we need to tackle the fundamental problems of Civilization Design.

What does Civilization Design mean? It means layering into the designs of our buildings, regulations, technologies, customs, etc. an understanding of their possible health and behavioral consequences.

In the meantime, however, models like Placeme – as creepy as they are – can help us intuit what’s possible.

What technologists who wish to develop Healthcare analogues need to do is to work with others in Healthcare to better understand what data is relevant.

That’s the hard part: sorting the relevant data from the irrelevant data.

That’s a major problem the Quantified Self movement has. The other is that it’s Self-based.

Healthme needs to be both. A technology that continually gathers an individual’s relevant data while integrating the world-wide pool of other relevant data to prevent, diagnose and treat the right problems at the right time within the right process.

Phil Baumann is founder of Health Is Social. He is a registered nurse who blogs and speaks and consults about the role of digital and social media in healthcare. He serves on the Advisory Board of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, where he was the first clinician to be on the board. You can follow his tweets and visit his blogwhere this post first appeared.