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Building Ambitiously: Taking Charge of My Health Data — Part 1
3 min read

Building Ambitiously: Taking Charge of My Health Data — Part 1

Building Ambitiously: Taking Charge of My Health Data — Part 1

As someone with a chronic illness, measuring certain health metrics is vital for my longevity and disease management. There are a slurry of apps in various app stores that can help me achieve this, varying from a simple spreadsheet, to a bespoke disease specific app. And they’re okay…

My main issue with the current ecosystem of health monitor apps is the complete fragmentation. Normally, the single responsibility principle, or niching down, is usually a good thing. Do one thing and do it really well. It’s a winning solution, for sure. But I’m not convinced that in healthcare this is always a positive.

When I was a registered nurse, I could (and did) have two patients with identical symptoms. However, any reasonably trained healthcare professional will tell you that these two patients might have different problems that manifest in the same way. And if they did have the same problem, treatment options could be entirely different, too. Why? Because healthcare professionals look at the patient’s health holistically and factor in variables which might seem irrelevant on the surface. Looking at the entire picture in healthcare is always the best practice.

So here lies my issue with the current eco-system. It leaves individuals with multiple apps which they somehow need parse and make sense of seeming unrelated data. Even as a trained nurse, it’s difficult to do when apps don’t (often) speak to one another.

The keyword here, integration. Or the lack thereof in health related app.

I know I'm not alone when I say my health has suffered as a side effect of the current global pandemic. My weight has increased and my exercise regime shattered. Which, if you know about my condition, is a critical part of my daily pain management. So it’s fair to say my disease is on my mind more than usual with the worsening of my symptoms.

I’m not one to sit around and complain about things being broken, especially when I have the knowledge and skills to do something about it. So over the last few weeks I’ve been theorizing and planning.

I asked myself one question: If I could build a software solution to fix that problem, what would it look like?

Here’s my some thought’s:

  • All my data would be in one place.
  • I would still use my Fitbit and other tech to track metrics (I don’t want to build hardware).
  • It probably should be an API, so I can access the same data regardless of what interface I choose to use now, or in the future.
  • It should be open-source.
  • Applying machine learning to track patterns in behavior which may exacerbate my symptoms would be awesome!

There’s more, but those are the basics. And to be honest, I'm sure some are going to change as I build this project. I’m sure I’ll have new ideas as we go too. But I’m fairly confident that the five above will remain as the base principles to which the solution will be built on.

This writing has been more of a "thinking out loud session", which I find helpful. Going forward, I’d like to continue this as a series as I build the project. I think it’ll be a useful exercise for me, and some readers, to document my thought processes and the decisions I make, from the tech stack I pick, the architecture, and problems I encounter. I’ll so have some technical posts, too, as I walk through the solutions for any roadblocks I encounter along the way.

My hope is that at least one person will be inspired by this series to use their technical knowledge to help their own, or someone they love, get better health outcomes. Great health tech should be unobtrusive and should not impede the management of a disease. Let’s hope my solution doesn’t comprise that principle.

If you want to follow my progress, keep an eye out here on the blog, or follow me on Twitter for updates. And, when a GitHub repo is available, I will add it to the bottom of this post.

I’ll leave you with this question:

If you could have your own personal health app, what would it look like and why?

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you're willing to share. Hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn with your answers.