Two weeks ago I threw a Quantified Self Meetup in beautiful downtown Louisville, and I’m writing this post, two weeks later because I’ve finally come down from the experience… We had a total of four speakers and 13 people show up to the recently renovated iHub co-working space. And I even convinced my mom to postpone her trip back home so that she could speak at it, too. Score.
By all accounts it was a great night. The Coors Light feedback loop cans were flowing like water as was the nerdiness and camaraderie around collecting data to better ourselves. If you missed it, check out the abridged recap below, and show up next time… mmm-kay?
Brushing Ain’t Easy
Our first presenter was my friend and long time Quantified Self Louisville aficionado, Alex Frommeyer. Alex has a local start-up that is building a blue tooth toothbrush called the BEAM toothbrush. The idea is to stick sensors into a toothbrush along with Bluetooth technology so that you can keep track of your or your loved ones (read kids) brush strokes in a mobile application. Alex talked about the Quantified Self movement in general, the BEAM brush in particular, passed around samples and also spoke about the niche for oral care within QS. The talk was really well received, as I had to cut off the question period, and fend off my mom, who kept bugging me to see if she could get the hook up on a BEAM brush, so we could get to the next speaker.
Let Me Ride… My Personal Dashboard
I have to hand it to Nick Such, because he was really the force behind this meetup. Nick lives in Lexington but really wants a group like this to exist in Kentucky and I can’t thank him enough for helping put this event together. Not only is he a super cool guy, his presentation was super cool too… as he spoke of how he started measuring things by tracking the gas mileage he would get on an old beater he drove in high school and college. That love for efficiency later translated to him joining the Solar Car Team at the University of Kentucky, and ultimately to him tracking and creating a personal dashboard that he presented to the group. He uses the dashboard to track sleep, activity and food consumption, and I’m personally hoping that Nick comes back to speak again after having a chance to dig through his data with questions.
You’re a Data Customer
Next up was my old Humana Innovation Center comrade, Shane Regala, who I now owe a big favor. Shane won the unofficial “who’s wearing the most personal tracking devices at the same time” contest, coming in at four. He also handed out a copy of Ubisoft’s Yourshape Fitness Evolved 2012 Xbox Kinect game to a lucky winner that guessed the number of steps he took on a random Saturday as a volunteer soccer coach… The right answer was 18,000. Shane delivered a visionary talk that related his personal experience tracking his sleep with two small children in the house to the bigger picture of how tracking may be used by payers, to help us all lead healthier lives in the not so distant future. It was also great to get a peak at some of the projects Humana’s Innovation Center is working on, as well as soak in some of Shane’s abundant energy, while he presented and DID NOT pitch to the group.
Last Night a Fitbit Saved My Life
Last but certainly not least, was my very own mother. My mom’s story is that she first felt symptoms related to Multiple Sclerosis in 1985, but wasn’t diagnosed until 1987. She is still able to walk and live a somewhat normal life, fortunately, and has a never give up attitude. But as you can imagine, it’s hard for her to stay motivated sometimes. As the story goes, my wife and I had purchased Fitbits for ourselves earlier this year and then bought one for my mom for Mother’s Day. We got her all set up before she flew back home to Minnesota and two weeks later, I received this E-mail from her in my Inbox:
I just had to tell you guys, I am so-ooo psyched(sp), I got my weekly results for last week, (5-28 to 6-3), I walked 20,724 steps, distance, 7.69 miles, and burned 10,303 calories. WOW!!!!! I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday, and I’ve lost 3 pounds since last time I was there. Not much, but dang, it’s a start. I told him my kids gave me the Fitbit for Mothers Day, and he thought that was great. I told him how motivated I am, because I can see the results, as I do them!! I told him I was thinking about getting a three-wheeled bike too, for exercise, and he really thought that was a good idea!!! I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and I laid there trying to decide, get up, or go back to sleep? I got up, got dressed and went for an early morning walk. I kept walking until I did a mile. My legs hurt so bad when I got home, I could hardly pick them up, but I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I know for all you walkers, that doesn’t sound like much, but dang, dang, dang, I am so pumped up, I think I’ll go pull some weeds!!!! Love you all!!!
I’m man enough to admit that I cried when I read this the first time. The underlined part is my emphasis on why I’m into tracking things. Feedback loops are powerful.
But as we were looking through my mom’s weekly Fitbit summary E-mails, to put some slides together, we noticed something wasn’t quite adding up. She had been accepted to try out a new drug called Ampyra in June, and by her account it made her right leg, which had been giving her a lot of problems, feel great. However, her Fitbit summaries were curtailing month after month showing less and less activity. When she went to take the Ampyra follow up test, after using it for a month, the drug was deemed to not be helping her enough to warrant continued coverage. She had never looked at her Fitbit E-mails successively to notice that her activity had declined so much, so she was genuinely surprised to see the downward trend.
I personally thought it was super interesting that the Fitbit data didn’t necessarily support my mother’s conviction that this specific drug is helping her, and yet she still loves her Fitbit AND feels that she needs Ampyra because it helps her. A great paradox of the modern health care system. Flash forward two weeks and she has begun her Ampyra retest period, on her own dime, so that she may come to her own conclusions and either appeal a denied claim or move on to something else that correlates with an increase in both activity AND feeling good… but on her own terms. I personally think that is what the future of health care can and should look like in America.
Sidenote: My mother informed me that she is not a “public speaker” many times before the event… I’m extremely proud that she stepped out of her comfort zone to tell her story to a room full of strangers. Her strength and sense of adventure have inspired me more than she will know.
All in all it was a great experience, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the January/February timeframe. Until then… keep it real.