Technological Determinism How it has changed the way we manage Healthcare

Technological Determinism: an ideology that technology can solve all of our problems. This theory is supported by the thought that technology defines a society's nature and that media technology and new inventions shape how we think, act, feel, and operate. (Examples: TV and internet)

Increasing reliance in quantitative, digitally produced data rather than tangible, effort requiring means. In terms of health and wellness, is all this technology really increasing our efficiency towards reaching their goals? Or does it just make people "feel" like they're doing something.

Problem in the US: Obesity and Weight Management

2013-2014 National Center for Health Statistics Data

Percentage of Americans who were considered Obese/Overweight:

  • 9.4% of 2-5 year olds
  • 17.4% of 6-11 year olds
  • 20.6% of 12-19 year olds
  • 70.7% of adults 20+
Where do we see Technological Determinism in this Problem?

Big Data

What is Big Data?

It describes the large volume of data that inundates businesses and companies daily. Although, the idea of collecting and storing volumes of information isn't that new, what is new, is the way companies are starting to analyze and use this information. Applying Big Data Analytics to solve situations has become a panacea and has made its way into many things such as healthcare, consumerism, online voting, politics, and businesses.

Pros to Big Data Analytics

  • Can possibly make a difference for low-income communities and lower socio-economic statuses.
  • Can positively affect medicine, healthcare, education, and transportation.
  • Targets educational, credit, healthcare, and employment opportunities.
  • Helps producers develop better products because of the data they collected.

Cons to Big Data:

  • Questionable security, accuracy, and reliability.
  • Privacy Concerns: Who owns this Data? By whom is it being used by?
  • How is it going to be integrated into our physician-patient routines?
  • Cost to physicians and healthcare organizations?
What field does Big Data relate to in this Problematic?


A Big Data Breakthrough:

Big Data can...

  • detect diseases earlier
  • help clinical operations
  • assist physicians' research and development in analyzing patient records and health effects.
  • analyze and track disease patterns and outbreaks
  • contribute to evidence based medicine
  • reduce risk of unnecessary readmission to the hospital.
  • predictive analytics are used to forecast life expectancy, genetic predisposition to diseases, and likelihood of a patient’s adherence to a treatment plan.”


IBM's Oncology Diagnosis and Treatment Advisor

IBM developed an Oncology Diagnosis and Treatment Advisor which puts together massive amounts of data from textbooks, articles, clinical trials, and more so that doctors can utilize that information to make diagnoses and look for treatment options for cancer patients. This provides low-income communities with better access to cancer care and lower costs.

Big Data Fallbacks

  • Security, Reliability, Accuracy
  • Who owns this data? Who's using it?
  • How is it going to be integrated into the real world?
  • liability issues, cost
  • Scientists are in the dark with a lack of access to companies' data because of the algorithms put up by companies to guard their collected information.
"Data are not as useful for diagnosis or clinical decision making (although we can imagine several scenarios in which they could be) as they are for self reflection and individual change" -- Gina Neff in "Why Big Data Won't Cure Us"
What does this have to do with America's Weight Problem? Where exactly do we see it?

Apps and Activity Trackers

It's evident that there's a craze for the collection and gamification of health and wellness.

Activity Trackers

A study was done to test the accuracy of the Fitbit Zip. What did they find?

  • Successfully motivated people to exercise and provided a behavior-change intervention.
  • Provider of accessible feedback regarding activity levels
  • Data inaccuracy: Overestimate of steps.
  • Cannot compare to research-grade devices made to record data for scientific analyses

IDC Health found that:

  • Potentially great way to start up health and wellness programs, and can help healthcare organizations motivate their employees and the community.
  • People simply stopped using their trackers because of a loss of interest in it, wearability challenges, app syncing issues, and informational challenges.


  • IDC Health found that people start to lose interest, simply stop using the apps.
  • The Pew Internet and American Life report on Mobile Health 2012 shows that 19% of smartphone owners and 11% of all mobile phone owners have downloaded a health application on their phone, however, the adoption rates of these applications are flat, as to the use of these apps has not replaced old methods and has not completely diffused throughout our society. Still, nearly half of the adults reported that they have tracked their health in some way before, for example, on paper and even“in their heads.”
  • A study done by JMIR Health Uhealth to determine which apps are the most popular for weight loss found that: "My Diet Coach Pro" and "Noom Weight Loss Coach" included behavioral change techniques that were most effective.



"Using Elements of game design in nonage contexts, and involves the inclusion of motivational affordances, such as points, levels, clear goals, feedback, rewards, progress, and challenges" (The Most Popular Smartphone Apps for Weightloss")

Why Else do People keep using these Apps?

A study was done in which seven traits of health apps were tested. The likable characteristics found were the apps' "record-ability," networkability, credibility, comprehensibility, and trendiness.

Apps serve as:

  • A place to record and track their routines
  • Network and interact with other people to see how they're doing
  • For some apps, a source of credible information.

Gamification is merely a plus -- People are actually serious about their health goal. The entertainment value of a health app is not as important as originally hypothesized.

Is it Worth it?

Inaccuracy, potential liability issues, and cost need to be taken into account. Additionally, privacy and security of users is at risk with potential data breaches and with the increase in the communication and social networking function of health applications. These apps and devices can only bring someone on their path to fitness so far.

"Contexts, not just numbers matter to health-care providers" (Neff, 2013).

"Big Data requires context. We need to know how to use it."

"87% of people expressed a fear of smoking. But did they really stop?"

"We have more of a responsibility as humans to spend more time developing our critical thinking skills."

So what should we do?

We can't rely completely on technology and big data to reach a fitness goal. Yes, they're great for motivational purposes and behavioral changing techniques, but Big Data can only do so much. To tackle the problem with the rising rates of obesity in America, focus on qualitative actions that Big Data cannot control -- i.e. actually exercising, eating right, and translating the quantitatively calculated solution into actions to live a healthier lifestyle. Big Data Analytics is helpful, but as it rapidly expands and develops we should not lose the ability to comprehend and connect the data to real-life applications or lose sight of how quantitative solutions only work best when balanced out by qualitative actions.

Works Cited

Bad Healthcare. Digital image. The Desk of Brian. Oyova, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Bright Lightbulb with light blue background hand underneath it. Digital image. Safe Bee. Safe Bee, 29 May 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Biggest Innovations in Healthcare Technology 2015. Digital image. Get Referral MD. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Drawing of hands holding an iPad while playing a game. Digital image. Elearning Industry. 2016 ELearning Industry, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

IBM Logo. Digital image. Logo. Logok, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Light Bulb Illuminated. Digital image. Shuttershock. Shuttershock, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Obesity Trends Among US Adults. Digital image. CDC. CDC, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.

Sims, Scott. Business People Working with Technology. Digital image. Buzz Logix. Buzz Logix, 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.


Created with images by NASA Goddard Photo and Video - "City Lights of the United States 2012" • jarmoluk - "education a good idea an array of" • soozed - "Bad Idea" • ElasticComputeFarm - "bandage first-aid medical" • robertnelson - "Not the same, but considering the distance (50k), its close enough #fitbit #garmin #fitness" • Nicola since 1972 - "IMG_0375" • juhansonin - "hGraph basics + multi screen" • edwinp99 - "bokeh blur blue"

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