21 Jun 2013

How We’re Hacking Health in a Post-Digital World

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This week we’re headed to our first-ever Hacking Health Cafe in Toronto. It’s an event “designed to improve healthcare by pairing technological innovators with healthcare experts to build realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line healthcare problems,” and we’re really excited to go!

In the post-digital world, more and more people are trying to “hack” their health by interacting with their bodies in the same way that they do machines. It’s not just people trying to harness their body’s potential by eating right and exercising — it’s the Quantified Self movement. People who are into the “quantified self” are also known as “lifeloggers.” They try their best to measure their activities, habits, and health metrics as closely and as constantly as possible, so as to generate a large amount of data about their health. That way, they can notice trends: water retention, cravings, irritability, sleeplessness, bad dreams…the list of things to measure is basically endless. But it’s all in the pursuit of health.

One way that these people accumulate this data is through wearable computing devices. Wearable computing allows people to use accessories like bracelets, watches, or belts to measure things like their pulse and heart rate, or how long they’ve been sleeping, or how many calories have been burned. Apple iWatch PrototypeThe most popular of these is likely the FitBit. The FitBit is the device itself, but the data that the device can glean from your body can be used in all sorts of interesting and useful ways: you can send the data to a diet plan website, or a sleep tracking website, or to another app that charts all those things. FitBit also provides an app for users to look at their cumulative data over time and notice what, if any, trends might be impacting their health.

Another recent innovation in healthcare technology is 3D printing. Recently, a special effects puppeteer and a carpenter collaborated on printing new hands for children in South Africa. And doctors recently printed an airway for a child born without one. Procedures that once took years of waiting and frustration are quickly becoming more accessible for patients, thanks to this technology. And the ability to print organs will allow doctors to train more effectively for surgeries in the future.

With these developments in mind, we’re really excited to attend the Hacking Health Cafe. Hope to see you there!

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