eHealth trends

I gave this short talk today at The Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences, IVA. It was addressed to their excellent Mentor4Research program and their group of mentors and researchers.

Here are my simple slides and speaker notes:

E-health as a trend: 2 driving forces and 1 catalyst



Driving force 1: Health care

Health screening online for faster and better disease identification.

Today: Feel symptom > Google > get worried > go to primary care > be referred to a specialist. Takes a long time!

With a good screening service you get faster remittance to the right specialist

Benefits: Reduced need for primary care. Earlier diagnosis = better health, less worry.

Research needs: Intelligent online questionnaires. Medical self test kits for home use.


Patient reporting systems

In use today: PER (Patientens Egen Registrering), a system I am involved with for further development.

Rheumatic patients report their health status online prior to doctor visits.

Benefits: Fewer and more effective doctor visits since the information is automatically sent to the doctor’s decisions support system.

Research needs: Continuous monitoring with health logging apps and connected medical sensors.



Driving force 2: Self-care

Patient empowerment tools: patients track and manage their diseases. The Quantified Self movement of users and makers of tracking tools.

Benefits: Better health and patient satisfaction, reduced health care costs.

Research needs: Re-think the health care doctor visit based model. Automatic health & disease monitoring systems, also for mental status like logging quality of life continuously.



The catalyst: the smartphone

Smartphones are at the center for e-health development. This is an FDA-approved ECG monitor addon for iPhone.

Benefits: A powerful and always available platform:

– Information retrieval and reminder tool for the user

– Automatic gathering data with all its sensors

Research needs: Apps that use the smartphone sensors for health tracking and alerts. Connected medical sensors. Medication compliance tools. Personal Health Records



+ Health Hack Day


Quantified Self Stockholm meetup with Kevin Kelly

Tomorrow I will go to Amsterdam to attend the second annual Quantified Self Europe conference. Quantified Self is a strange term that few understand, and I think it will stay that way. But I am convinced that the tools and services that are emerging from the QS movement will soon be integrated into our lives and taken for granted, not least in the health care sector. That’s why I enjoy attending events like this, it is a taste of the future!

My feeling is that the QS movement is at the same stage as in the late 70s when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak attended the Homebrew Computer Club and showed their first Apple I computer board. Except that the QS development is so much faster than the personal computer was back then.

In late March we had the honour of having the founder of the Quantified Self visiting in Stockholm and our growing QS Stockholm group.

Here is a report from our lunch meetup with Kevin, written by my QS Stockholm co-founder Ola Cornelius:

QS and Wired Magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly visited a cold Stockholm to speak at the Webbdagarna (Web Days) conference and we took the chance to invite him to a lunch meetup in the office of our friends at Psykologifabriken (The Psychology Factory). QS Stockholm co-organizer Henrik Ahlen had an interesting chat with Kevin to explore his insights and the story about how Quantified Self began.



A quick sandwich lunch before the talks

Before the chat, medical researcher and Parkinson patient Sara Riggare talked about her self experimentation with Parkinson treatment. Sara has a quite complex medication scheme with 6 different drugs, taken at 6 different intervals in varying combinations. By using a simple finger tapping test app on her iPhone, she could identify correlations between medication times and her mobility, enabling her to modify her drug intake timing to achieve a more even function.


Sara and her daily dose of Parkinson medication

These self measurements will form the basis for a study at the Karolinska Institute, where the methodology will be offered to a larger group of people with Parkinson’s Disease.

Chat with Kevin Kelly


Henrik shows Kevin the premiere issue of Wired Magazine which he bought in London in 1993 and is still hanging on his kitchen wall, now also signed by Kevin!

Some takes from the chat

• In the beginning of science there was a lot of self experimenters with a curious mindset. Experimenting just for the fun of it! Everyone can be a researcher.

• It is useful to create new sensors and measuring devices without exactly knowing what they will be good for. Someone will do something useful with it!

• The ”no real agenda” kind of measurements that QSers do can lead to new and valuable discoveries.

• Quantified Self enables ”the Science of n=1”, which has the potential to revolutionize healthcare.

• The data from these measurements opens up for unanswered questions to be made.

• Internet communities and Meetup gatherings such as Quantified Self empowers spreading of new ideas and finding others with the same interest to collaborate with.


The audience was very engaged and came up with many questions to Kevin.

Henrik also announced Health Hack Day ( which is a 24 hour open, innovation hackathon in Stockholm, where creating and sharing ideas, technologies under the themes Healthcare, Selfcare and Wellness will bring new cool tools for Life Science.



 Henrik Ahlén, Kevin Kelly, Sara Riggare and Ola Cornelius saying ”Whiskey!” to the photographer John Airaksinen.
 Our host from Psykologifabriken, Niklas Laninge, gets Kevin Kelly’s book ”What Technology Wants” signed

Form over function

I often work with usability in online development projects, but I very often also notice counter-productive hardware design wherever I go. I can’t help wondering what the hardware designers were thinking of and if they ever tested it on humans before release?

Example from my local gym: they just installed new sinks in the dressing rooms. The first thing I noticed was the beautiful new water tap with a bright red ring of lights on top:



I then tried to fill my water bottle under this tap, for my upcoming spinning class. I started to look for how to turn the water on.

My first try was to wave my hand under the water nozzle, since it looked like one of those taps that starts automatically when you put your hands under the nozzle.

Nothing happened.

So I thought: Maybe this little lever on the side is not  for lifting the sink plug as it looks like, maybe it controls the water flow?

But nothing happened when I turned the lever.

So then I figured there could only be one route left, to press the red ring on the top with my finger.

And voilà, water emerged!

But it was lukewarm, and I wanted cold water from my bottle, (in Stockholm we drink the tap water you know).

So how could I regulate the temperature? Well, now I was getting impatient and a bit irritated, my spinning class was about to start.

So I peeked around the tap and found that there was indeed  blue and red marker arrows on that little lever on the side, the one I thought was for controlling the sink plug (since that is the way a majority of sink plug levers look around the world) but since the markers are very small and turned 90 degrees to the side it is very hard to detect them.

So I thought this was rather stupid interface design, but perhaps there was a hi-tech finesse in that red light on top, it perhaps turns blue when the water is cold?

So I turned the lever in the direction of the blue arrow, and indeed, the water turned cold, but the light stayed red.

And as soon as I held my water bottle under the nozzle, the water stopped coming.

Turns out the tap is timer-regulated to save water, and I had spent 90% of the time looking for the water temperature control.

So I again pressed the red lights on the top and finally managed to fill my water bottle with cold water. All this only took me a minute, but it should not be necessary.

When I got back from my spinning class the dressing room was full of men, so I started to observe how they handled the new taps. Not a single person was able to get the water out of them without either experimenting like me, or asking others how it worked.

These taps are beautiful and probably quite expensive as they are electric and have those red LEDs on top. I wonder if the manufacturer ever tested it on real users?

Anyway, a very simple device like a water tap should not require instructions, they should be intuitive to operate.