Information Systems Integration – Tony Messina

What Our Digital Lives Say About Our Health

Research has shown that our actions on our smartphones, computers, and social media account can indicate a lot about our current well-being. This realization has no led to a new field of study called digital phenotyping, which studies people’s interactions with digital devices to make assessments of their mental and physical health. One company in particular that has made efforts to perform this kind of analysis is Facebook. Facebook has begun to use artificial intelligence to analyze posts, comments, live-stream videos, and status updates for behavior that may indicate severe depression or suicidal thoughts. When it detects these characteristics, the site can send a message to the individual, encouraging them to get professional help.

Other than Facebook, there are other companies working to provide similar services with digital phenotyping. One company called Sharecare offers an app that monitors your stress levels during phone calls to provide an assessment of your current mental health. Others use information about daily smartphone use to gather insight about memory and mood swings.

What do you think about digital phenotyping? Will this be something we see used more in the future? What is the ceiling for the amount of insight it could provide? What do you think the health insurance implications will be? Feel free to leave your comments below.


2 Responses to What Our Digital Lives Say About Our Health

  • It sounds like a noble concept. If Facebook can use this to monitor the behavior of its users it could potentially hinder certain users from doing something harmful to themselves or others.

  • Digital phenotyping could be a breakthrough service which helps in mitigating the possibility of users harming themselves or others in any way. I think this is a great idea in reducing those risks and I hope that Facebook and other companies can use the information in a sensible way. This service can be highly successful, and if it is, it will be used more in the future. I think this service could either benefit health insurance companies or hinder them. If users were told that they should seek help for mental health issues, they may go and seek treatment. However, if these services were to address users mental health issues, these users might feel like they have gotten the help they needed just from the message received from the service.

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