Why Web Applications Can’t Do Much For Your Health

How Much Can Technology Change Your Health?

I enjoy the fruits of the information age as much as anyone else, but am skeptical it’ll have the same impact across all industry verticals.

Today there was an article in the Los Angelas Times about iPhone apps that improve your health:

Your smartphone: It’s not just for texting, tweeting, waging war against little green pigs and — oh, right — calling people. It’s also for making yourself a happier, less stressed-out, more self-aware person.

Really, there’s an app for that. Any number of apps.

Ahem.

Information technology has had a great impact in areas where the economic unit of valueIphone that shows heart rate revolves around information. Examples include the internet, financial services, insurance markets, and pockets of other businesses that utilize data.

For the most part, this does not apply to health.

I understand that healthcare utilizes lots of data in its diagnostic tools, but data crunching for the sake of diagnosis is only a second order solution to the real problem.

That is, healthcare is not the same thing as health. 

Bad Health Is A Behavioral Problem, Not A Technological One

For most people, the problem of bad health is an issue of behavior, culture, and ignorance. I’m sorry, but an iphone app can’t do much to change that.

Why are people unhealthy? Let me list the reasons:

  • Lack of willpower to eat the right things
  • Lack of knowledge about what the right things to eat are
  • A strong preference to prefer present consumption over future consumption
  • Social networks that stifle individual initiative to make the right choices
  • etc, etc

The answer to most of these problems probably lies in effective types of human contact, and daily habits that occur offline.

Admittedly, the internet can help a bit with item number four, but its relevance wanes quickly. Digital friends aren’t as strong as live ones.

So when I read enthusiastic proclamations about the healing powers of web apps, my first response is skepticism.

They can only have a small effect on what goes into your body, right?

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About Jonathan Bechtel

Owner of Health Kismet, maker of Incredible Greens, a green superfood supplement that combines 35 different raw greens, herbs, probiotics, grasses and fruits into a sweet tasting powder.

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