Skinny Jeans and Menstrual Apps

Susannah Fox speaks about her mentor, visionary physician, Tom Ferguson, with fondness.  As early as 1975, Dr. Ferguson was writing and advocating empowerment for patients.  In 1987 he began providing online health resources.  As the Internet evolved, Dr. Ferguson was at the forefront of the evolution of the empowered, engaged, equipped and enabled medical consumer, the e-patient.

From Ferguson, Fox gained an appreciation of health as being just one part of life, one of the many pieces of the puzzle of life.  At the 2012 Connected Health Symposium,  even as people self-track and become engaged with their health, Fox wondered how much self knowledge is really shared with clinicians.

As Associate Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, Fox has been providing information about the social life of health information, peer-to-peer healthcare and the use of Internet by those with chronic disease for over 12 years.  Fox shared  her most recent survey findings at the symposium.

According to Fox, 60 percent of Americans are tracking weight, diet or exercise routine.   One in three adults track health indicators or symptoms and one in three caregivers track their loved ones’ health indicators.  But, how are they tracking?

Surrounded by many people who are connected, technology savvy self-trackers, Fox had the courage to admit that her own self-tracking strategy does not involve scales or batteries:  she uses the time honored “skinny jeans method.”  That is, one owns a pair of jeans that one used to be able to fit into.  Striving to get back into those “skinny jeans” is the life goal of many women, myself included.  We monitor our weight and fitness via those jeans.

Around 50 percent of those who were surveyed are tracking in their heads–they use the “skinny jeans” method.

One in three are still  using the pencil and paper method.  Only one in five use technologies like apps, websites or devices.

If the person has two or more chronic conditions, he may be tracking:  sixty percent of those with two or more chronic conditions track their health information with eight-five percent of them using a cellphone tracker.

Yet even though people are collecting data, they aren’t sharing it.  Two-thirds of data collectors do not share the data they collect.  Fox believes that this missing information may be useful to clinicians and recommends clinicians ask their patients about health tracking.

Another piece of information that Fox gleaned from her survey results is that people are not interested in apps that stand alone.  She thinks successful apps are those that are  integrated with online programs like Weight Watchers.  Weight Watchers has had 10 million downloads of their app which is integrated into the Weight Watcher’s popular support and knowledge system.

Fox’s take-away is that those who are creating apps, websites or devices need to make tracking as easy as it is when keeping up with it in the head.   She also impressed on her audience the need for innovators to create apps that are what the consumer wants to know.

So what do consumers want to know?  An interesting outlier may lead to a clue of what information men may be interested in collecting.  Her survey found that  popular apps that men are using are menstrual cycle tracking apps.   Hmm…wonder why?

Susannah Fox was one of the many amazing speakers at the 2012 Connected Health Symposium that occurred October 25 and 26. I will be highlighting the content of this symposium in the next few posts so stay tuned.

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