Chronic Disease Internet Culture

Day 121 and Health Data

One of the biggest blockers to taking up a more quantified approach to personal health is your ability to get good data. Why? It’s not because it’s hard to capture or track key metrics. Nope, one of the biggest blockers is the consistent portability of your personal health data. This frustrates me as biohacking has been key to regaining my health but it’s a challenge to keep my data sets in order.

No one uses one piece of hardware or software forever. Preferences evolve. Doctors want new metrics. A new device comes on the market. You decide one metric isn’t worth tracking anyone. Or maybe your Fitbit just shits the bed and you decide to buy a new type of step tracker. Whatever the reason our stack changes over time. And yet data interoperability seems like a pipe dream. Devices and applications act is if you will be with them forever. Your data gets parsed in their specific presentations with little indication that it can be exported for later use in another table or application.

If you are considering doing work in health data please take into consideration that even if you build the next billion dollars company with a decade of your leadership, it’s possible your customers will won’t make it for the whole ride. Please don’t tie them into your best case scenario. There are real people on the other end of your metrics and they are making important real world decisions with the health data that is making you money. Respect that we want you to make money for providing us with value but there may be a legitimate reason we need to make a change. We should have the ability to take our data and have it be usable somewhere else. So please don’t optimize for “sticky” user behavior that keeps us coming back. Give us value without having to sacrifice our freedom. If you can’t do that then maybe you shouldn’t be in the health business.