An Update on Quantifying Myself

I wrote last year about my attempts to quantify myself. At the time I had just started using a Nike FuelBand and Fitbit Aria Scale. I was looking for a way to integrate those tools with an app for tracking my runs and nutrition. I ultimately decided to use LoseIt! as the hub for my data because it offered connectivity to Nike — both the FuelBand and the Nike Running app — and I preferred it for tracking meals over other nutrition tracking apps.

I thought at the time and I still do today that connecting all of these services in a meaningful way was way harder than it should have been. Chris Wasden of PwC did not agree and he’s a much heavier quantified device and app user than I am. I was partly looking to unify services for my wife, not just for me, and I’m 100 percent sure she would never have connected any of these things if I had left it to her to do.

I’m sorry to report that after about seven months, I’m not using LoseIt! any more. I’m still juicing and smoothie-ing two meals a day. I like it because I don’t have to worry about food all day and it only takes me about 10 minutes in the morning. I think I partially stopped using LoseIt! because I got tired of setting up recipes or complicated meals for smoothies and juice. I also think it’s just that I’m not that motivated to track my meals and calories.

I’ve written before that using LoseIt! a few years ago was eye-opening for me. I learned a ton about nutritional and caloric content. I only used LoseIt! for about a month, but my food choices are still driven by what I learned from it.

I still use my Fitbit scale. I use the Fitbit app for my weight, even though weight is the only thing I’m tracking with the app. My weight is pretty consistent, so I only open the app every month or so to see if there are any noticeable trends. I only use the mobile app, never the Web.

I still use my Nike Running app. The design is getting better and better and I’m happy with it. I also still use my FuelBand, though I’ve had to replace it twice for different hardware issues. It sucks to have to replace it, but Nike support has been awesome for me, as was Apple when I exchanged the device. I don’t love the FuelBand as a device and I don’t always trust Fuel as a metric. I’d potentially switch to the Fitbit Flex or the Jawbone Up, but not until those devices connect to something that’s socially meaningful for me.

That brings me to the reason why I started using and still use Nike apps and devices – they integrate with Path, the only social network I use. I’m a steady Path user and so are my closest friends. Over the past seven months, I’ve had seven or eight friends, all on Path, buy FuelBands and start using the Nike Running app. It’s fun to compete with and be held accountable to friends. All of the friends I’m connected with on Path are in different cities.

In the end, I came to realize I didn’t really want an aggregated quantified-self dashboard, which I was looking for when I originally wrote about this in December. What I want is a simple, seamless, and selective way to share my data. Social is powerful, and I prefer to share with and show off to friends rather than to see my own personal quantified metrics and trends. Gamification is a nice touch for self-tracking data, but social + games is much stickier.

In fact, as I’m thinking about it, I’d love to be able to share my Fitbit weight recordings, and especially my LoseIt! meals, with friends. Most of my friends already share meals and smoothie recipes, but have to do it manually and it has no nutritional info associated with it. Social drives engagement, at least for me.

This post was motivated by the announcement by Aetna earlier this week about the new CarePass platform for consumers. I setup an account and connected Fitbit and LoseIt! to CarePass to try it out. None of my Fitbit weights seem to be syncing.

CarePass is obviously a big push for Aetna and this is just a first release, but it’s pretty bad in its current version. The interface is decent, though it includes way more data points than most people would ever want to track or see on a dashboard. Nike apps and devices aren’t supported, so it’s mostly useless for me. As I said before, I’m not dying to have an aggregated quantified-self dashboard.

It’s potentially a good tool for somebody that uses the list of CarePass supported devices and apps, which admittedly is a pretty big list, and is motivated to unify the data for person viewing and goal setting. The linkage with iTriage is there, but the Web version of iTriage is not integrated into the CarePass interface, so it just directs you to download the iTriage app.

It also seems as though there isn’t any social component to CarePass, meaning it’s not sticky to people like me who are driven to continually engage based on social. I’m sure CarePass will add social in time, hopefully through partner apps or networks. Maybe the real vision for CarePass is for Aetna to be the data integration layer for developers, not the presentation layer for consumers.

I’m curious if others have signed up and started using CarePass. What do you think? How does it work for you? What other social + health combinations are working for people? Mine is Path + Nike.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

  • TS

    The only way CarePass will be successful through Aetna is if there is a financial incentive for patients using it. Look at all the different apps and devices you listed that you have tried as someone who is more tech savvy – the average patient/consumer today is not going to go to those lengths. It appears that you tired of testing devices, entering data and tracking data that is not important to you. Those are reflective of the general population. Thanks for sharing.

  • kylesamani

    howdy TS

    I agree. I tried Mango Health – an app that enters you into a pool to win $5 gift cards if you take your meds/vitamins on time – and I found the incentives not compelling enough to keep using the app.

    We have to incorporate lifestyle metrics into real health costs. Unfortuatnely, our current employer-provided health insurance system destroys a lot of that incentive. At my former job, as a 23 year old male, I was paying an average health insurnace premium where half of the programmers were 30+ year smokers. What incentive do I have to live healthier if I know my premiums won’t chance because my colleagues don’t want to take care of themselves.

    Speaking of which… that’s the subject of an upcoming blog post 🙂

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