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Ron Gutman

Ron Gutman

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The New Health: Transforming Information Into Action

Posted: 02/ 2/11 03:45 PM ET

Last fall, I presented a new framework for personal health at the Health 2.0 conference. This framework was developed after years of examining and thinking about consumer personal health information -- thinking that's been refined through research at Stanford, the founding, building, and growing of one of the largest online consumer health websites (Wellsphere -- who has served more than 100 million users), and now through founding and building HealthTap. We've created HealthTap to engage people in their health and to help them live healthier, happier lives by using information, transforming it into knowledge, and then into action.

Here's the video of my presentation from Health 2.0:


From Data To Action!

In recent years, companies tapping data to guide user decisions have experienced robust traction and widespread adoption. In books and commerce, Amazon.com makes personalized recommendations based on users' past purchases and browsing habits. Mint.com provides personalized financial guidance based on individual user financial data. Pandora.com creates playlists based on musical preferences and listening behaviors, and Netflix predicts film preferences for subscribers, and uses proprietary algorithms to makes film suggestions. Millions of content users also favor this approach when used by online dating services, helping them make better choices about whom to date.

The benefit of decision support is clear: incorporating individual data into personalized and tailored recommendations leads to more fitting decisions and actions, and happier, more satisfied people.

In an ideal world, every person will be able to simply log into a secure personal service that will allow her or him to take relevant pieces of data at a moment of need, quickly process it to get meaningful information, easily understand it to become knowledgeable, and effortlessly track a new behavior that will help her or him solve or alleviate the specific need they have.

Every day we make many important heath-related decisions and choices -- from what we eat to whether or not we take a break to relax, or from taking our medication as prescribed to agreeing to undertake a needed medical procedure. Surprisingly, these decisions are made without easy access to relevant and personalized health information to help us understand what's happening, and choose what's the right thing to do, and without a personal health "dashboard" to help us track and benchmark what we chose to do.

Can you imagine playing a video game without data infrastructure and a dashboard that helps you benchmark yourself against your goals and the performance of others?

And yet, we live in a time of increasingly available health information and tools. There's an explosion of health data becoming available and accessible from multiple sources, ranging from wearable devices to smart-phone apps, from aggregated government health data to industry compiled health data, and from online communities to social networks where patients share information about their health and care.

Think of a time when you felt that something was not quite right with your health. Did you feel anxious and alone? What difference would an easily accessible Personal Health Companion (that knew you and your personal health profile and was immediately available online or through your smart phone), have made at that time? Imagine the companion being able to mix and filter data about what it already knows about you, with what you tell it is currently happening, with the understanding of what's happening to people who are similar to you, and based on that real and personal data to provide you with information about what you likely are experiencing and what you can do.

When you eventually choose a course of action, with your physician, your practitioner or on your own (if it doesn't require a professional), the Personal Health Companion will be there with you to help you monitor your progress, and help you transform your newly acquired knowledge into sustainable action, better health and a happier life.

Wouldn't that be nice!