How Tech Is Making Us More Efficient Health Activists

So Organized!

We’re living what Jane Sarasohn-Kahn calls, “Do It Yourself Lives.” By applying the best tools, information, and ambition – we’ve found ways to just about do everything on our own and more importantly, on our own terms. We are well aware of how quickly life moves and we want to make more of it than ever before. This, in fact, goes well with our theme of Health Technology because – we owe a lot of our independent, fast-paced lives to technological devices. As Health Activists, we want a new, better version of what’s out there for us. We owe it to our own curiosity but also to our communities who look to us for conversation on it. Sure, this means we want upgrades for all of our technology but it also means that, most importantly, we want upgrades in our thinking. It’s no surprise that we want so much to be treated like intelligent and self-sufficient people when it comes to our healthcare – we are intelligent and self-sufficient.


Health Activists especially are on the forefront of the DIY trend – not only have we taken control of our health and learned to analyze it in a productive outward way (through communities, blogs, forums, social media) – but we have also taken it upon ourselves to bring what we’ve learned to others. What I love about Health Activists is that no one is saying “I wish we could go back to a simpler time” we are saying “I want to know what’s next. I want to gain more control and more influence. I want to be more efficient and more effective even if that means taking more responsibility.”


Isn’t it time our healthcare caught up with us? Of course it is. This is the whole idea behind the powerful e-patient movement – DIY healthcare starting with what you can give yourself. In the wise words of E-Patient Dave, “We who’ve become e-patients don’t wait for our providers to tell us everything; we get it in gear, we ask questions, we do what we can to help.”

Recently, one way that people are fulfilling this is through self-tracking. Watching what you do, recording it, and looking at the data you’ve collected. This goes for everything from budgeting your paycheck to watching your weight loss – and really provides a sure-fire way to achieve your goals (and doing so through the use of new technology).


Health Activists have been tracking their health, symptoms, flares, appointments and so much more for a while. It makes for better health management and better interaction with our doctors. By watching how we feel and what influences our bodies, we are more effective caregivers to ourselves (and our families as the case may be). In the past we’ve used whatever we can: three-ring binders, manila folders, notebooks, and spreadsheets. Now we can integrate technology into that tracking process. We can use apps, devices, and programs to make this Health Activist staple even easier.


A burgeoning community focused wholly on the trend of self-tracking is The Quantified Self. What is it? Well, as it says on their site, “Quantified Self is a collaboration of users and tool makers who share an interest in self knowledge through self-tracking. We exchange information about our personal projects, the tools we use, tips we’ve gleaned, lessons we’ve learned. We blog, meet face to face, and collaborate online.” Sounds pretty perfect for Health Activists, doesn’t it? Sponsored by personal health management site Cure Together, The Quantified Self has already gathered a great collection of ways you (and your community members) can try health self-tracking. The Institute for the Future (IFTF) partnered with The Quantified Self to build a complete guide to self-tracking. This means that, soon, we’ll all be able to share self-tracking resources with our communities and get in on taking this new movement of DIY living to the next level.


As quoted in this IFTF article, project head Alexandra Carmichael knows what DIY folks want: “People interested in measuring their cognitive function, or sleep, or body fat, will be able to come to the guide to learn about the different tools available, interact with people who are measuring the same thing, and discover new ideas about how these observations can be useful.”


How much will this idea of self-tracking influence the world of Health Activists? Ten-fold. I see a future of more organized health communities and online support groups with even more sophisticated conversation. I foresee the elevation of online conversation that many of us are already having about health daily. I also see the ability to engage in that elevated conversation becoming a possibility for everyone in a way that socioeconomic limitations has made difficult thus far. Health Activists will be able to speak from experience in a more complete way and encourage others to do the same. There will be: more effective doctors’ appointments, better patient adherence, and more proof (anecdotal backed up with data!) as to what works and what doesn’t. But that’s just my two cents and I haven’t even scratched the surface of this self-tracking movement or more intricate health technology trends!


What do you think? What sort of self-tracking do you do now and what self-tracking (or health tech) would you like to try? How do you think the future of self-tracking (through health technology) will improve your health and influence your health community?


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