I’ve been really intrigued by the tweets from Mark Cuban and the response from many to his tweets from those in the healthcare IT community. Here’s a summary of the 3 tweets which ignited the discussion:
- If you can afford to have your blood tested for everything available, do it quarterly so you have a baseline of your own personal health
- create your own personal health profile and history. It will help you and create a base of knowledge for your children, their children, etc
- a big failing of medicine = we wait till we are sick to have our blood tested and compare the results to “comparable demographics”
My friends Dan Munro and Gregg Masters have both been writing a lot about the subject, but there are many others as well. They’ve been hammering Mark Cuban for “giving medical advice” to people when he’s not a doctor. I find these responses really ironic since many of the people who are railing against Mark Cuban are the same people who are calling for us to take part in the quantified self movement.
What I think these people who rail against Mark Cuban want to say is: Don’t misunderstand what Mark’s saying. More testing doesn’t always improve healthcare. In fact, more testing can often lead to a lot of unneeded healthcare.
This is a noble message that’s worthy of sharing. However, I think Mark Cuban understands this. That’s why one of his next tweets told people to get the tests, but don’t show the results to their doctors until they’re sick. In fact, Mark even suggests in his tweets that the history of all these tests could be beneficial to his children and their children. He also calls it a baseline. Mark’s not suggesting that people get these blood tests as a screening for something, but as a data store of health data that could be beneficial sometime in the future.
How is Mark Cuban storing the results of a bunch of blood tests any different than him storing the results from his fitbit or other health sensor?
One problem some people have pointed out is that if you’re doing these blood tests as a baseline, then what if the blood tests weren’t accurate? Then, you’d be making future medical decisions based on a bunch of incorrect data. This is an important point worth considering, but it’s true of any health history. Plus, how are we suppose to make these blood tests more accurate? If the Mark Cuban’s of the world want to be our guinea pigs and do all these blood tests, that’s fine with me. Having them interested in the data could lead to some breakthroughs in blood testing that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
Along with improving the quality of the data the tests produce, it’s possible that having all of this data could help people discover something they wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Certainly any of these possible discoveries should go through the standard clinical trial process before being applied to patients broadly. However, researchers only have so much time and so many resources to commit to clinical trials. Could all the data from a wide swatch of blood tests better help a research identify which research or clinical trials are worth pursuing first? I think so.
For me it all goes back to the wide variety of health sensors that are hitting the market. A blood test is just a much more powerful test than many of the health sensors we see on the market today. So, the warning to be careful about what you read into all these blood tests is an incredibly important message. However, with that fair warning, I don’t see any problem with Mark’s suggestion. In fact, I think all of the extra data could lead to important discoveries that improve the quality of the tests and what measurements really matter.