By: Waqaar Khawar

A growing number of people are keeping data about themselves with hopes of improving their health.

These are not people who necessarily have any knowledge or training in medicine, but rather normal people from all walks of life.

The general idea is to answer the question “What works best for me?”

Naturally, the emergence of self-tracking lends itself to the emergence of all sorts of apps to help make data storage, tracking, and analysis easier.

When retired advertising executive Jon Cousins was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he found tracking his mood helped to diminish the depression he experienced. He developed his own system for tracking his mood as he found the ones available to be inadequate. Today, Cousins’ system is an app called Moodscope that boasts 33,000 users.

Jules Goldberg realized he had use for self-tracking when his wife became fed up with his snoring. He developed SnoreLab, an app for the iPhone, to assess which snoring remedy works best for you.

With the growing popularity of self-tracking, crowd-sourcing applications like CureTogether and PatientsLikeMe have developed as well. Both of these free services allow users to see how other people have liked (or disliked) treatments for hundreds of conditions.

While it has been suggested that medical researchers could use data from these types of self-tracking applications, there are a few issues that make this tricky. Patients are relied upon to provide data themselves and there are no controls. Beyond that, the extent to which placebo affects patients’ outcomes is difficult to assess due to the fact the patient is both entering and analyzing the data as they go along.

At the end of the day, there is a growing population out there that believes self-tracking helps make them healthier and happier. Maybe there is a positive placebo affect to this in itself — meaning phenomenon will continue to grow and the number of resources will also continue to grow.

For healthcare providers, this means patients are paying more attention to their own data. This is potentially more useful for physicians that have access to much more data about their specific patient. Physicians also need to understand their patients are not experts and will need more help to understand this wealth of information at their fingertips.

Source: The Guardian