Your health, your data and why context matters

It's your body and your health. It's also your data. But do you know what to do with it?

That is one of the byproducts of the recent dust-up between the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and 23andMe about whether the genetic testing company can continue to sell its $99 DNA sequencing kits directly to consumers. The kits offer insights into a patient's risks for cancer and other diseases.

Here is the crux of the FDA warning, issued November 22:

FDA is concerned about the public health consequences of inaccurate results from the PGS device; the main purpose of compliance with FDA’s regulatory requirements is to ensure that the tests work.  

Four days later 23andMe posted a letter from CEO Anne Wojcicki:

It is absolutely critical that our consumers get high quality genetic data that they can trust.   We have worked extensively with our lab partner to make sure that the results we return are accurate.

This is new territory for both 23andMe and the FDA.

This is also new territory for patients. And it goes well beyond 23andMe and genetic testing.

There are two big issues here — accuracy of the results and the context of communicating these data.

Data are everywhere. Patients are getting more comfortable tracking and analyzing their own health data — from reading their own blood pressure at machines in places like Walmart to wearing fitness trackers, like Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand or the FitBit.

But when we deliver health data that requires context — such as your likelihood to develop some type of cancer, heart disease or neurological disease — that's where analysis and guidance from trained health care professionals becomes essential.

Self analysis works well when you're tracking calories. It has worked well for decades for diabetics who track their hemoglobin because they have been instructed in what to look for and what the different readings mean.

We are moving to a health care world that is data rich. It must also come with equal doses of caution, communication and compassion so that data are meaningful, useful and actionable.

Crowdsouring sickness (with @sickweather)

Cough, common cold and sore throat are going around in Boston.

And I'm heading there today.

Thanks to the Sickweather app for iPhone, I can get a glimpse of what ailments are spreading through my area.

Just as Doppler radar scans the skies for indicators of bad weather, Sickweather scans social networks for indicators of illness, allowing you to check for the chance of sickness as easily as you can check for the chance of rain.

You can tweak preferences within Sickweather to notify you when certain illnesses are prevalent — from allergies and asthma to strep throat and whooping cough. As Sickweather says, "don't worry, be healthy."

So, for my trip to Boston today, I'll be packing the Purell!

Live healthy, prevent disease with @Prevently

One of the latest entries into the "make small changes and change your health" arena is Prevently.

Our goal is to prevent a disease before it ever happens by helping users live a healthier lifestyle.

We know this can be difficult. That's why we make sure it isn't.

Prevently is a new service that is built on four pillars:

  • Health articles and videos focused on prevention and wellness.
  • The sale of products and devices that promote and monitor health.
  • Regular telemedicine consultations with health care professionals.
  • An all-in-one online personal health record.

The last pillar is one of the most interesting. The online personal health record aggregates data (such as steps, sleep, BMI, blood pressure) from fitness devices and apps, such as Fitbit, Internet-enabled scales and Prevently's own app. 

These data have a direct connection to Prevently's telemedicine offering, which will be a subscription service that allows users to chat with a doctor about their health. The doctor has access to the user's Prevently health record and can even get notifications when the user's data show that something is off.

The marrying of real-time data and notification with education, awareness and coaching will be essential to achieving population health. It still requires an engaged and activated patient — and a strong support system of family and friends — to become a reality.

Prevently promises that physicians have reviewed all of their content and products. The site sources information from places like Harvard Medical School and has a team of advisor physicians review all of the health products and devices the site sells.

Prevently is a solid idea that shows promise as a platform for patient engagement and better health.

Source: MobiHealthNews

What wind-blown data look like

Data should drive every business, especially health care. And how we interpret and use data is evolving rapidly.

Now even the way data are presented is evolving, thanks to collaborations like, which brings together artists, designers and technologists to rethink how we look at data.'s Wind Map is a great example. Click and watch. 

While Wind Map, created last year, is a "personal art project," its concepts can and should be applied to the presentation of data in the business world so more people, in more levels of an organization, can better understand — and apply — important data.