When Data Isn't Enough

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , October 4, 2011

Then there's the Facebook effect: Many online platforms are mimicking the social media platform -- and some have functions that allow users to post their health stats directly to Facebook for friends and family to "like."

But if being an engaged patient were as easy and as fun as playing Farmville or Angry Birds, America would be the healthiest population in the world.

As one of the folks I was sitting next to at a session said, after seeing a demo of one of these game-like sites: "That's great. But does it work?"

I'm a healthcare technology reporter. And I was covering a healthcare technology conference. So of course many of the solutions were high-tech: slick, expensive, complicated, or some combination of the three. And they're great for those patients who really do hunger for more data about their health and have the time, energy, and desire to use it.

Someone who worked for months to lose 60 pounds or who has been smoke-free for six months will be tickled to brag about it on Facebook. Exercise freaks will be stoked to have an app that charts and graphs his or her heart rate and ratio of fat to muscle mass.

The family that eats fast food four nights a week, the couch potato who only moves to shake the last of the chips out of the bottom of the bag, or the mother of two with a full-time job who wants to lose weight but cannot find a spare minute in her day, let alone an hour to go to the gym? Not so much.

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