Whether or not big data can be a big problem, or whether IoT bringing us back to the Garden of Eden is good or bad, a Connecticut woman is likely alive today because of the information gathered by her FitBit.
73 year old retiree Patricia Lauder was awaiting diagnostic test results back from a doctor’s visit that she suspected would tell her she had walking pneumonia, but as she waited, she realized her resting heart rate was rising to abnormally high rates based on the data the device had collected.
Finally, she said “I just couldn’t wait anymore. Something else had to be done, which is why I called the ambulance — which turned out to be a good thing,” as the doctors found blood clots in both of her lungs, causing her heart to work significantly harder to continue circulating blood. “My heart had enlarged to about 65% beyond its (normal) capacity.” Ultimately, the doctors were able to address the situation and send her home just two days later, while noting: “she may have actually died if she had not sought medical attention.”
Upon first considering this story I thought – what a valuable tool for our aging population. Without a medical background, I imagine very few people (myself included) know anything about their resting heart rate, and certainly would not have historical data to support it. Excluding hypochondriacs, many are often slow to go to a hospital without a broken bone or open wound, assuming they might be overreacting (and don’t want to pay the cost of an ambulance – leading many folks to now take Uber to the hospital.) But for Patricia, this data was a powerful tool to take control of her health. For aging folks who have less control over their own agency, device data can serve as a means of advocacy, and a comfort.
My second thought was, “doctors are already so mad at everyone for coming into offices with a self-diagnosis from Web MD- I can’t imagine people coming in to say ‘My Fitbit data tells me I have X issue.'”
And it isn’t just for the aging- a man’s post on Reddit last February inquiring about his wife’s elevated heart rate (as tracked by her Fitbit) was their first sign that they were expecting a baby.