Frontera Group: We speak patient


You wake up. You reach for your phone. You scroll through your Facebook feed, liking that cat-in-a-box video, while posting a photo of your breakfast on Instagram. This is life in 2017. And it’s generating an enormous amount of data about you. (And me. I was definitely the one liking the cat video).

In fact, one such cat video ‘like’ could be enough to predict key aspects of your personality, according to new research. And, apparently, that’s all it takes to create content that is tailored to you and designed to change your behaviour.

The scary potential for abuse aside, there is obviously great scope for using these ‘digital footprints’ in a positive way in healthcare.

For instance, understanding key personality traits in such a way could help design tailored interventions that improve health and well-being – as an example, the research mentions persuading those who show early signs of depression to seek out help or directing them to self-help materials. Targeted advertising doesn’t always have to be evil.

Beyond that, digital footprints have scope in streamlining patient-reported outcomes (PRO).  At “Ideas that change health care”, organised by the Kings Fund last month, Dr David Stillwell presented yet more evidence that computer algorithms know you better than your friends (and even your partner in some cases). Using such algorithms could help predict answers on PRO questionnaires – making the process easier and more convenient for everyone involved.

So, you wake up. You reach for your phone. Your scroll through your Facebook feed, liking that cat-snuggles-with-dog photo (yes, me too). And maybe, just maybe, the data you create will be used to make your life, and healthcare more broadly, just a little bit better.

by Rachel David