I stumbled upon an article this morning on NPR that looked at the growing trend of continuous monitoring of health data. The article focused primarily on one “hacker” who has worked to set up his own system of tracking his vital signs using a wireless bracelet and software.

dash

A link to his work can be found here.

Personally, I love to see the use of technology and software programming to gather statistics like this. Working on my own tracking platform, I am always interested in seeing ideas of what other people come up with. I like getting ideas and potentially integrating them into what I have done.

The article  makes an important point toward the end, and I wanted to discuss it briefly today. An important question to consider is: When is there too much information? Research has shown that people who routinely monitor their weight typically manage it better. But what about other vital signs, like blood pressure? The NPR article suggests that if you notice a spike in your blood pressure, it could lead to stress; thus, higher blood pressure.

I suppose that NPR’s point is valid, though I feel that it all depends on how you utilize the data, as well as your individual personality. For those with a hypochondriac streak, I imagine this type of data collection is probably not a great idea. But for those who are interested in more of an analytic interpretation, and looking at long-term trends (like general sleep quality of time as a function of the amount of exercise per day, and so on), I could see this type of data collection as being immensely interesting. What I would be most interested in looking at is correlations among day-to-day vital signs. Batching all Mondays together and comparing how your vitals have differed over time . . . or looking at Monday compared to Friday, where the relative stress of starting a week compared to going into the weekend may have an effect on your overall stats. That would be fascinating!

Functionally though, what is really gained? I think it is fairly safe to say that a lot of the information that can be learned from this type of monitoring really only reaffirms what is already known: exercise is good; your blood pressure varies throughout the day; Mondays suck; your heart rate changes when you are active. Is it worth all the effort?

This being said, I still think it is pretty bad-ass, and I am totally going to dive into the code and API that is available and see how it all works. What do you guys think? Would you want to be able to see a continuous stream of your health in a fancy, little dashboard-style setup?