Time to Move Beyond “Quantified Self” and Toward a “Wantified Self” Philosophy?

November 6, 2013
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corporate wellnessFirst published on MedCityNews.com. “It’s not what you think I should want that matters, it’s what I want that matters,” writes Dr. Pritpal S.

corporate wellnessFirst published on MedCityNews.com. “It’s not what you think I should want that matters, it’s what I want that matters,” writes Dr. Pritpal S. Tamber in a recent blog post.  “Wellness and health care are what I increasingly see as ‘supply-side thinking.’ Health care, as the all-seeing and all-knowing Big Brother, is telling us what we should want – and we have to trust it because we don’t know any better.”

Tamber, also the clinical editor of TEDMED, is leading an effort to reimagine the role of healthcare in society by trying to measure what’s meaningful to people in their lives, so that healthcare can become more personalized to help them achieve those goals.

The movement is called Wellthcare, a term defined as:

“new health-related value, defined by what people want to do, supported by their nano-networks. The arrival of new technologies and society’s willingness to embrace them, provides an opportunity to explore and, eventually, embed, deliver and nurture Wellth.”

Tamber’s small group of visionaries in the UK call themselves “Wellthcare Explorers.” They’re working together to debate and brainstorm about how to create a greater focus not on “health” but on what it is that people really want to be healthy for, with the ultimate desire for greater self-sufficiency in society and less demand for healthcare.

While the quantified self movement has kick-started that by attempting to put numbers on parts of life beyond healthcare, those numbers are meaningless without context, Tamber writes. The concept of Wellthcare builds on that by exploring the social and emotional context around people’s health data.

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For example, he tracked his steps with a Nike Fuelband not because he wanted to walk 10,000 steps a day to be healthy but because he wanted to stretch his hip flexors, which would result in a reduction of the sciatic pain he was having. It’s that kind of understanding, he reasons, that could shift the healthcare environment from supply-side thinking to demand-side thinking. “We can work together to help people be healthy in ways they define,” he writes.

It’s all quite abstract right now but an interesting angle from which to think about bringing down the unsustainable demand for and cost of healthcare.