What? Health care as a leader in technology? Yes, with digital phenotyping

The health-care industry is leading the way in a new technology and the tech world should be paying attention and taking notes. While there is most likely no argument that health care has always been a leader when we think of research and development, it’s not often that they take us down a path of technical leadership. This is changing as we enter the world of digital phenotyping.

Digital phenotyping refers to the observable characteristics specific to an individual’s genotype — genotype being a person’s specific genetic makeup. What the health-care industry is developing is a way to predict the evolution of certain patterns. Put another way, by collecting observable data about an individual and also having access to that individual’s genetic makeup, data can be collected that was never before available to this level of accuracy. While we have always had the ability to collect data acquired via interview, or survey, or general observation, there has always existed discrepancies in accuracy. Will the subject disclose or recollect the exact experience or the precise detail? Will we miss a critical element while observing? We have historically always been at the mercy of active data collection.

Enter the world of the personal mobile device and a new level of passive data collection. Data that is collected as we go about our everyday lives, oblivious to the information that is being collected. Case-in-point, everyone in today’s modern world has either obsessed over or known someone who is obsessing over the number of steps walked in a day. This isn’t a bad thing. Being aware of one’s activity level is an important part of good health and this data can now be passively collected by a number of mobility devices, including a mobile phone. Passive data collection is a very real component of technology today.

digital phenotyping
However, because it is human nature to fear that which we do not understand, technology is at the mercy of substantial and increasing regulatory compliance. Thank you very much to Facebook for setting us back yet another decade in the quest to develop understanding and trust of the tech industry. For some reason, we do not have the ability to separate the concept of technology and that of greed. Let’s face it, the entire foundation of democracy is built on punishing everyone for the crimes of a few. The latest victim… technology.

I’ve made my point. So for a moment, let’s not think about ethics, or privacy, or conspiracy theory, or Russian-influenced elections, or Facebook, or wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. For a moment, let’s stop obsessing about all of the potential bad uses of passive data collection and think about the good. This is what the health-care industry is working toward. Digital phenotyping refers to the practice of mining data specific to observable characteristics acquired via personal mobile devices and analyzing that data based on the individual’s genetic makeup. Combine this data with family history and the accuracy of the analytical data will surpass anything that has been previously captured. The health-care industry is interested because it is a new level of behavioral observation, but what about the potential of the tech industry? Today there are external tools that advance our cognitive capabilities, but are we leveraging this ability? Certainly, it is important that we provide the resources available to those with challenges that can be addressed. But the tech world is quite aware that we don’t want to stop there.

Recruiting the right resource

digital phenotyping
Flickr / Micah Baldwin

With the many different areas of technology today, the hiring process has become increasingly challenging. The current solution is to remove the human element and utilize analytical programming to arbitrarily select or deselect a candidate. But by using only active data collection, the system is basing candidate selection on the analysis of data that isn’t even accurate. Add to that the realization that the profession of analytics in technology is still rather immature and we are not leveraging tools to the best of their capacity. Today there is no way to accurately assess not only the personality traits of the best candidate via a recruiting tool, but we also do not accurately represent the personality traits of the hiring organization.

Enter digital phenotyping. Imagine a world of passive data collection that can accurately grab the critical data utilizing mobile technology, keyboard strokes, exercise equipment, and even home automation tools (think IoT) to accurately capture data and provide a perfect candidate match with the personality of an organization.

Strategic planning

digital phenotyping
One of my favorite functions is that of the sigmoid curve. The idea behind the sigmoid curve is to graphically depict the transition from an existing state to a new, planned state. When we apply this to the rapidly changing world of technology, the concept is that it is before a technology reaches its peak that we need to already be transitioning to our new strategic plan. Not so long ago a long-term strategic plan in the world of technology was a 10-year plan. Today, it’s about three years and we don’t always get it right because of some unexpected and rapid paradigm shift.

Not so long ago I spent a year trying to apply scientific concepts to the business world in order to predict the success or failure of startups in the tech industry. I was unsuccessful and determined that scientific principles could not be applied in these circumstances because our human resources introduce too many random variables. Imagine a world of passive data collection that could remove the randomness and ensure that the behavior and genetic makeup of the human resources would ensure that everyone was driving in the same direction with motivations that are not just based on personal gain.

But can we ever trust technology with digital phenotyping?

If the weather this winter is any indicator, I guess hell truly has frozen over, opening up the opportunity for health care to show technology leadership in a rather big way. While this technology is not really a big surprise to the tech industry, we are limited in our ability to utilize digital phenotyping in any large capacity due to paranoia, the crimes of a few, and subsequent regulatory conformity. Bad guys will always be bad guys and it’s time to allow more freedom to the tech industry to utilize the tools already in existence to advance the human race, or at the very least improve productivity.

In the meantime, perhaps we can at least trust technology enough to enable real estate developers to build a house that is actually square. That would be a good start.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top