“We want to be like a new-technology toothbrush”

Do we need to connect up our bodies to be healthy?We need to know ourselves so we are aware of what to do to get or keep fit. Networked blood pressure monitors, activity trackers and scales provide an accurate picture of our lifestyle, quality of sleep and even bad habits! Connecting up the user’s body enables them to gain awareness, which motivates them to take action on their own health and to change their behaviour in the long term. This means they can make progress, adopting good habits such as managing their weight or watching their blood pressure. This is already common practice in some circles: sportsmen and women set themselves a target then measure the gap between their current performance and their target. In medicine, many diagnoses also use numerical data. With activity trackers, the general public can apply the same logic.”Trackers drive change, primarily because they bring a psychological reward”Can everyone use these trackers?We all know that we need to do physical activity and avoid going to bed too late. We know the guidelines: five fruit or vegetables a day, walk to work etc. … yet few people actually follow this advice. The number of people affected by chronic diseases is growing constantly – to the point where they make up two thirds of health spending. Almost 50 per cent of the population in France is obese or overweight, and at least 20 per cent of adults have high blood pressure. That’s a whole lot of people whose health could be better.Is it possible for us to feel well but not actually be healthy?Indeed, it is: even if we feel fine, we may not really be in the best of health: conditions can come on silently. For instance, half of all those with diabetes are unaware of it. Connecting your body helps you to take care of yourself by behaving better to prevent high blood pressure, heart problems or obesity. Measuring your physiological parameters over time can help make a diagnosis, aid early detection and improve the management of chronic conditions.Does it really work?Yes. Scientific studies show that people who monitor themselves using a pedometer take an average of 2,000 more steps a day, and this lowers their blood pressure. Much higher weight loss was also observed in people who watched their weight regularly: severely obese people who used their scales at least 20 times a month had lost six times more weight after a year than those who used them less than 10 times a month.How do you explain this success?The historical view of data presented graphically provides an opportunity to see what stage you are at right now. Trackers drive change, primarily because they bring a psychological reward. The measurement itself and the system of badges which show your progress in concrete terms make a change in behaviour very gratifying. Instead of making resolutions that you will never keep, it is better to set small, achievable targets. It is much more effective to take small steps each day and check that your effort is paying off. Social pressure is also a powerful tool to keep you on track. Sharing data with other users of connected devices creates added value and generally results in activity which is more diligent and sustained, such as walking.The treatment pathway and doctor-patient relationship could be profoundly affected. How have health professionals taken up these new networked tools?
From the time you take ownership of your own data, you are also taking responsibility. This marks the end of the patient passively awaiting the doctor’s instructions: they take action on their own health. This represents a real paradigm shift. We will no longer be content to wait until we fall ill, we will take action beforehand. Until now, medicine didn’t have many preventive tools apart from the toothbrush and toothpaste. At Withings, we plan to be the new-technology equivalent of the toothbrush. The role of the medical profession will remain fundamental, but will also be thoroughly re-evaluated. Some professionals are very interested in sharing data as a means of early detection for certain pathologies. For example, the EDUC@DOM programme run by Toulouse University Hospital involved procuring a monitoring system (blood glucose device, scales and pedometer) for patients with type 2 diabetes. If someone gains weight quickly, a doctor can be alerted. Nutritional software also helps people to keep eating balanced meals. Another possible application is underway at the Norwegian Centre for Integrated Care and Telemedecine, where weight measured remotely provides an indication of water retention and therefore an alarm signal for patients at risk of congestive heart failure.Besides fostering individual responsibility, can connected devices help medical research?Smart connected devices also produce collective intelligence due to the volume of data which can be aggregated in order to analyse the main trends and gain new knowledge. In France, where many customers have smart scales, we have established a classification of cities according to the proportion of residents who are overweight, for example. These devices can also provide information about what does and what doesn’t work, for instance providing a better understanding of how to encourage children to be active and avoid becoming obese. The data enables us to see how behaviour changes over time according to the type of activity proposed and the type of user.To go furtherBig Mother’s watching: should we trust a connected device to manage our lives?
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Source:: “We want to be like a new-technology toothbrush”