Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J. 2020 Oct-Dec;16(4):309-313. doi: 10.14797/mdcj-16-4-309.
Type “health and fitness apps” into any search engine, and thousands of options will appear-so many, in fact, that people can now measure their own heart rate, sleep habits, and dozens of other health parameters that once required a doctor’s visit. While anecdotes of a personal health device capturing early signs of disease may garner media attention, the increasing quantification of human physiology can have downsides. In essence, the enhanced ability to assess surrogate measures of health, such as temperature, minute-to-minute blood pressure, and genomics, are an expansion of anticipatory health-that is, an attempt to detect and avoid events that might happen in the future. While patients used to seek out doctors when they were sick, digital tools will send increasing numbers of people to their physicians before they are sick. In a Cartesian model of the human body, wherein one system could potentially be fixed independent of another system, having more data may be beneficial. The human body, however, is far more complex than any Cartesian model could explain. This article explores the limitations of digital devices to improve health.