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The Youngest Twitterer and the Future of Health Management

BoingBoing featured kickbee, probably the youngest Twitter user. His father, Corey Menscher,

has designed a kick sensor which monitors his pregnant wife’s belly, and generates a fetal tweet whenever the baby kicks.

Technical details and images here.


Incredible idea! What might be the next step? I’m just wondering…

  • A diabetic patient monitors his/her blood sugar and whenever there is a serious difference from normal values, the doctor receives a twit about it.
  • An old patient with high blood pressure measures his/her blood pressure several times a day with an automatic device. When the value is too high, the doctor receives a twit about it.
  • Pregnant women who are at risk for some reasons, can wear such sensors, and anytime the heart beat of the fetus decreases, the doctor receives a twit about it.

What kind of examples do you have in mind? Let your creativity fly!

Alexandra Carmichael tracks herself – 40 things about her body, mind, and activity – every day as a part of the quantified self project. She is one example. Based on her experiences, patients could track themselves as well.


Do you want better health management? Let’s be open to such useful tools as Twitter.

66 Comments Post a comment
  1. One of the things that strikes me about Twitter and other social media tools is that it is a “hotter” medium, in some ways – more emotional, expressive, personal. So, when I think of medical applications I think about the shared care model, and the idea that medical decisions should be made in partnership between a patient and a clinician in a way that acknowledges both evidence and secondly, but importantly, the patient’s expectations, hopes and fears.

    When I think of diabetes or hypertension monitoring (the “facts” stuff) I tend to think of iPhone apps, or Facebook widgets maybe (although streaming the results of these things through a Twitter stream is a good idea, if there weren’t so many liability issues attached to ‘live updates’ being sent to physicians. I can actually see a day where you have medically staffed Twitter clearing houses for that kind of thing).

    When I think of Twitter I think of ways to express moments of confusion, forgetfulness, frustration, and the availability of a community who can be there to reinforce, nudge, cheer, and support.

    But from the clinical view, Twitter streams about a patient’s experiences gives a wonderful running pulse of what expectations hopes and fears drive someone’s behaviours day-to-day. I can see a patient sharing their updates with their physician and using that as a backdrop for discussing why they might want to make one choice over another, or why they aren’t complying with their meds, or what their goals of therapy are.

    But as far as medical ‘tracking’ I’ll throw out tracking activities (eating, etc.) and GERD or ulcers. Tracking contraception compliance, maybe. Or, there was a “gait tracking” device for patients with MS out of Israel (gait is an indicator of progression, and I’d love to see this adapted for iPhone use and linked to Twitter). Side effect tracking with any med, especially the more ‘powerful’ ones (e.g. biologics for people with RA).

    Wow….great topic, just realized my mind has gone off on a brainstorm! Better Twitter that. :)

    December 14, 2008
    • Your very informative yet fun to read I enjoyed a dream. I blog to read your most recently have been waiting for.

      November 14, 2010
  2. Thanks for the mention, Berci! I’ve learned so much by tracking myself, but never thought about tracking/twittering my kids! I’m so amazed at how many applications people are finding for Twitter.

    I wonder if my daughters would like to have such a detailed record of their childhood – my older daughter is 6 so she could probably have her own Twitter account! A very different world than the one I grew up in, for sure – no computers, no Internet, no cell phones! How did I survive?

    But seriously, I think there are incredible health management possibilities for Twitter and tracking tools. If the result can be a better understanding of our bodies and less suffering, then everyone wins. Thanks for all your efforts toward this end.

    December 14, 2008
  3. I agree that the “new web” and it’s social media tools play an important role in advancing healthcare management, treatment, and delivery.

    Let’s not forget the other part of the equation. With all the new social and interactive applications online becoming more readily available, we need to also focus on the development and utilization of hardware that is both as efficient, cheap, and ubiquitous as their online software counterparts.

    Twitter was not originally created with the idea of healthcare implementation. Medical professionals have taken a platform and collaboratively molded it into something that is useful. As a result, we are witnessing twitter’s utility in medicine becoming more and more apparent everyday.

    We can throw together web apps to suit our needs fairly quickly. Can we throw together equipment to interface with all of it? Can we do it cheaply? I think we can and I’d like to see it done.

    Currently I have an android dev phone on order. Taking a device that can be as ubiquitous as a cellphone and an open platform (android) that can potentially be placed on many types of hardware from many different manufacturers opens up an incredible opportunity for healthcare professionals to better monitor, diagnose, and treat patients.

    Interfacing with the phone should be easy and it’s possible to do so with something as simple as a modified inline microphone and some code. Even the least developed nations have cellphones these days. If they can easily interface biofeedback to a network, healthcare professionals anywhere can help bring current medicine and practices to remote areas of the world. GSM networks are everywhere and most support SMS over GSM. All the technology is there and it can be done.

    And we all know that most big killers are ones that can easily be caught and prevented of properly monitored.

    What do you guys think?

    December 14, 2008
  4. _henry

    I think technology can provide some amazing data, but as healthcare providers we need to also stick to the basics. The communication and relationship piece, making sure we can convience people why and how they can manage and improve their health. I am a tech junkie so I want all this stuff, but I think the people that read this is very biased. We clearly read blogs, probably use twitter, but the people with very poor health and in most need of these technologies are not on the same end of the technological adoption curve.

    So amazing applications yes, but we need to do the health promotion and teaching that goes with it.


    December 14, 2008
  5. I agree with you that direct health education is paramount to technological solutions, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We can and should include technology at any level where it is feasible. Even the smallest bit of technology is able to change lives. Nothing prolific needs to be done. We just need to innovate with the tools that are readily available.

    An example is the idea of telemedicine. The first thought of telemedicine conjures incredibly futuristic and advanced machines with incredible computing power requiring professionals to acquire new skills through hours of training. All the big companies these days have been pushing amazing technologies such as Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci Robotic Surgery Systems. These have been controlled from across the United States to perform procedures thousands of miles away. And there are high-speed, always connected robotic platforms that travel throughout a hospital using navigation technologies to deliver supplies and instruments (such as at UCSF). But that is only one end of the spectrum.

    On the other end, there are people like Roger and Pat Swinfen, of the Swinfen Charitable Trust. They basically have made connections with hospitals around the world to renowned medical specialists:

    “Doctors in distant areas, including Afghanistan, Antarctica and the Solomon Islands, e-mail photos (many taken with digital cameras supplied by the Swinfens), X-rays, test results and case notes. The information is reviewed by specialists, who respond by e-mail to help make diagnoses and recommend treatments.”

    It’s a great post by Washington Post a couple weeks back. Here’s the link from the Washington Post article.

    Hope you enjoy it :D

    December 14, 2008
  6. Leroy Glinchy #

    Sorry to nitpick, but surely the nurse is going to be notified of the insulin problem, not the doctor. The nurse will call the doctor if they need an order. I don’t know any doctors who are stoked about mico-managing routine blood sugar levels. :)

    December 17, 2008
  7. Hi
    Interesting to see some discussion over what the uses of something like Twitter could be. With regards to Berci’s examples, I see patients as the ones who are alerted to their health problems and then letting me or the nurse know. I can’t think of any examples where if the testing is close to the patient I would need to know the result before them. As it stand I know the results of their blood tests before them because the result passes through me and is nearer to me.

    I also think that Rob has a very good point in that the digital divide is with us whether we like it or not. It could be that increased use of technology leads to the inverse care law being perpetuated as those in most need may have least access.

    Good discussion!

    December 19, 2008
  8. Sorry to nitpick, but surely the nurse is going to be notified of the insulin problem, not the doctor

    December 20, 2008
  9. Leroy and Acai:

    In your country! In Hungary, only physicians could be notified of the insulin problem, for example.

    December 20, 2008
  10. I guess some countries are in need of nurses and the doctor needs to be called in those situations. Great discussion

    January 6, 2009
  11. Hi, I’m the creator of the Kickbee, and I love the discussion it has generated amongst healthcare professionals. I am truly humbled! I had a very interesting conversation with the proprietor of the 3G Doctor blog based on this post:

    Kickbee in its current form would probably not stand up to the rigorous standards of the healthcare industry, but there is a lot of room for improvement. I would be ecstatic if it inspired other similar “biotweeting” devices!

    January 10, 2009
  12. Corey, I’m so glad you liked these suggestions, but your idea stands behind all of these discussions.

    I really believe your device can lead to major innovations in medicine.

    January 10, 2009
  13. Thats a pretty unique idea. With something like that, I’m sure a hundred new twitter applications will pop up. Who knows what the future holds?

    January 27, 2009
  14. Although Twitter is absolutely huge, it’s a long way from becoming a good medium for such critical things such as if I’m about to die.

    Cool idea though.

    January 29, 2009
  15. facebook is now a much better application for this

    March 6, 2009
  16. wedding cookies – I disagree wholeheartedly with the notion that Facebook would be a better platform. The problem with Facebook is that by default once you “friend” someone, you receive all of their status updates, etc. This means that every time Kickbee would kick, everyone who friended it would receive the updates, and would potentially pollute friends’ Facebook News Feeds with many “I kicked Mommy” updates…potentially becoming annoying. It’s not easy to turn off a friend’s status updates…and if you do, what’s the point of friending Kickbee? It’s also more difficult to “unfriend” someone…whereas Twitter has an easily-accessible “follow/unfollow” toggle button.

    Twitter is focused on the immediate dissemination of small tidbits of information. When you “follow” someone on Twitter, you are explicitly saying that you want these updates. On Facebook, status updates are more “opt out”. Additionally, Twitter’s API is easier to work with, and the format lends itself to act as an online data log of fetal activity…the entire Kickbee Twitter stream can easily be pulled via RSS for further data analysis, storage, or visualization.

    Most importantly, if you want the data public, anyone can go to the Twitter page to see the updates without needing to have a Twitter account. If you want the data private, you can also restrict access.

    When I made Kickbee, the major reason for using Twttier was that I could choose to receive tweets directly on my mobile phone. The point of Kickbee to was instigate a physical manfestation of a baby kick through the mobile’s vibration function. Twitter provided an extremely easy to use and FREE solution for sending these text messages.

    March 7, 2009
  17. This is a downright hilarious idea… I love it!

    As soon as I’m pregnant I’m going to get my hubby to do the same thing :)

    March 13, 2009
  18. dvdrumls #

    Thats a very unique idea. Something like that, I am sure many of new twitter applications will comes up. because nobody knows what the future holds with it.

    March 21, 2009
  19. Doctors should alwasy be notified in situations like this. This really makes me think.

    March 25, 2009
  20. Corey, I’m so glad you liked these suggestions, but your idea stands behind all of these discussions.

    April 5, 2009
  21. That’s an incredible idea! i wonder what wacky things they will build next?

    April 8, 2009
  22. Google is in talks to aquire twitter, it is going to change.

    April 14, 2009
  23. thanxs for tips on pregnancy. your valuable suggestions are great .

    April 16, 2009
  24. Thank you very much for your post. I believe this is very sound advice. I am going to have to sit down with my wife over the weekend and review all of our options. Thanks again for the post.

    May 6, 2009
  25. Haha and I thought my Twitter tools were top notch. I honestly never thought Web 2.0 and social media would go this far, but I must say I’m glad to be proven wrong. I think similar products – less jovial, more professional – should be on the agenda.

    May 11, 2009
  26. I am sure many of new twitter applications will comes up. because nobody knows what the future holds with it. nice posting , i like it.

    May 17, 2009
  27. Well this is a great news..the youngest twitter on earth..great job..dunno what future has in store for technology..

    July 1, 2009
  28. This is great news for everyone in the health field!

    August 26, 2009
  29. Doctors should always be notified in situations like this. This really makes me think.

    September 28, 2009
  30. One day it will become clear that twitter and health management are important.

    October 29, 2009
  31. are you serious…wow…today’s technology is increasing at a fast pace.

    January 26, 2010
  32. This actually gives me an idea for my own Twitter product. But this one is amazing!

    January 26, 2010
  33. It’s interesting to see how far Twitter has come along. I think its the wave of the future.

    February 16, 2010
  34. A new platform is not only used for old boring stuff, but it’s inspiring new ideas… It will be interesting to witness which one of these – if any – will have a potential to “stick”.

    April 19, 2010
  35. I can see this being utilized in so many areas. It is very exciting!

    May 7, 2010
  36. LOL! Twittering before even being born! Modern babies…

    August 12, 2010
  37. I didn’t even knew the internet until elementary school..hehe

    August 12, 2010
  38. I can see this being utilized in so many areas. It is very exciting!

    September 7, 2010
  39. alex #

    Looking for Quick Weight Loss? Use this proven software.

    September 21, 2010
  40. Really funny what some people do, although this idea is someghow cute and really nice.

    December 8, 2010
  41. What have acai berrys got to do with twitter :)

    March 2, 2011
  42. Great ideas thanks for posting . Will be back soon.

    May 27, 2011
  43. I agree with you that direct health education is paramount to technological solutions, but they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We can and should include technology at any level where it is feasible.

    June 20, 2011
  44. Someone already said this but Facebook could be better for this. Although this is really an unique idea.

    March 14, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. ICMCC Newspage » Blog Archive » The Youngest Twitterer and the Future of Health Management
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