Summary:

Big data meets the quantitative self with a project to collect every heartbeat for science. Dr. Leslie Saxon wants everyone to send in their heartbeat data to a website to create a database to track heart health. Such a database could help predict heart health.

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Big data meets the quantitative self with an iPhone EKG-tracking case and project to collect every heartbeat for science. Dr. Leslie Saxon, the founder of the USC Center for Body Computing, wants everyone to send in their heartbeat data to a website to help create a database to track heart health.

Fast Company’s Co.exist blog has the details of the project, which hopes to understand what the heart rhythms of an entire population look like over a period of days, weeks and maybe even years. So while doctors today might get a few moments of a normal heart rate from patients in their office, most continuous monitoring occurs only when a patient is in the hospital and experiencing distress — like a heart attack. Using medical devices such as the AliveCor EKG reader that acts as an iPhone case, an app, or even some of the hoped-for wearable tracking sensors, such as the theoretical wearable thin-film patch from mc10, doctors can get a more well-rounded view of what a healthy heart looks like.

From there, it’s only a matter of establishing patterns and teasing out data points. Then perhaps, doctors can discover how heart rates change ahead of heart attacks, before someone comes down with a serious illness or any other number of indications that a person is less than their best. It’s the type of project that Seton Healthcare, an Austin, Texas hospital system could embrace to discover population health trends and lower the cost of delivering medical care by finding small problems before they become big ones.

Healthcare is the type of use case that big data is made for. And plenty of efforts are being made to find ways to make this type of aggregated and constant data sharing acceptable for consumers. We have devices that can do it. Now we need the subjects. Then Dr. Saxon and her colleagues will have to find ways to analyze the data for useful patterns that benefit everyone. So open your heart, and get involved.

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