How come YouTube can reliably recommend videos they know I’ll consume, but there isn’t a food search engine that’ll recommend healthy meals they know I’ll consume? How come Uber can always find the optimal route to my destination, but I’m completely unaware of an optimal route for my health?
In an age when algorithms understand us and personalize things for us at such an incredible ability, it is a shock that we don’t have this same level of personalization for our health.
I’m aware that the scope of human health is more complex than entertainment or transportation. But health is more important. It should be a priority.
That’s why I’m very intrigued by this idea of a Digital Guardian for your Health. Essentially, it’s a personal guide that helps you navigate your way through your future health, with personalized (not generalized) advice on your exact health journey. And I believe we’re on the cusp of achieving it.
What are the pieces and how will they converge to create something really special?
In order for our health to be the center of attention, there must be a comprehensive view of it to start. We must turn our health into an operating system that we can tweak with great certainty.
Q Bio is one company making this happen. In 75 minutes, they run an exam on every system in the body: circulatory, digestive, immune, neurological, etc… They call it the Physical of the Future. At the end of it all, your body is an open book. You then have a digital representation of your body’s systems that can be used as a platform to track changes to your health over time.
Similarly, iCarbonX aims to digitize one’s biological and behavioral data as it pertains to their health. This digital representation can then act as the starting point for creating a map of your future health. Their goal is to create a “GPS for health navigation”. And that starts by turning your health into data points.
Essentially, this is the infrastructure of the Digital Health Guardian. It centralizes (and visualizes) your health so that you can track improvements and deductions to your health over a lifespan.
With a platform that can house your health, the next piece of the puzzle is the continuous monitoring and collecting of one’s health data.
How you sleep, how you handle stress, how food affects your health, how you age, how your immune system fights sickness. All of this and more helps color in exactly how your decisions impact your health.
Binah.ai has created a video-based vital sign monitoring app. In 10-120 seconds, they can collect heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygen saturation, HRV, (and soon blood pressure) all from your smartphone’s camera.
Withings fitness watches come equipped with ECG monitoring, activity tracking, and sleep tracking. Their smart scale adds your weight data to this ecosystem.
And then there’s a litany of apps, like MyFitnessPal, that allow you to track your food, fitness, and other health-related behaviors.
The Apple Watch and Apple Health seems to be the premier consumer product here because they’re bringing a lot of this health information into one place. But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in the health data collection process in order for the Digital Health Guardian to be effective in the final piece of the puzzle: guiding your actions.
Guiding Your Actions
With a comprehensive understanding of how our health and behaviors impact one another, the Digital Health Guardian can fulfill its true purpose in informing us how to act healthier (specific to our own situation). What type of advice can we expect to receive from our Digital Health Guardian?
The obvious two are food and fitness choices.
We already get this advice on daytime television, commercials, friends etc. The difference with the Digital Health Guardian is that because it’s integrated with our entire health picture, it sees the exact effect on our body’s systems by introducing more fat to our diet in lieu of carbs. It sees the exact effect on our musculoskeletal system when we do high-intensity workouts over endurance.
And I, therefore, think the Digital Health Guardian will give us advice that is more likely to become habitual. It’ll be more impactful than any app you can download today.
The next action I imagine the Digital Health Guardian guiding is our immune system:
I’m personally surprised that the Apple Watch doesn’t already have an Immune Efficiency reminders function. Essentially, it would send you frequent behavior tips to ensure your immune system was working at its best.
This means telling you the day before traveling to drink orange juice, get hydrated, reduce your stress, and get good rest. It means reminding you to wash your hands after leaving a crowded room. It means avoiding busy places if your stress has been heightened.
The Digital Health Guardian would also ensure you were fulfilling your social needs:
Social relationships—both quantity and quality—affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk. Social isolation of otherwise healthy, well-functioning individuals eventually results in psychological and physical disintegration, and even death.Umberson & Montez, NCBI
Apps like Ikaria are helping people open up about their personal struggles and find friends to help them through it.
Most importantly, it’ll work in the background to be your angel during emergencies:
Something sudden happens to your heart, it’s already alerting help. A company like Corti is showing us how AI could alert emergency responders far quicker than our current systems.
Ultimately, the goal for a Digital Health Guardian is predictive health decision-making – knowing the impact a decision will have on your future health before you even take that action. When you digitize and monitor the health of millions (or billions), you can find patterns between individuals. And thus learn from each other’s successes and mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong, there needs to be substantial work done in all three of these pieces before the Digital Health Guardian is effective. But the point is that we’re seeing great efforts already. And that excites me.