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Would you Join the "Facebook of Medicine"?

Leslie Saxon, founder of the USC Center for Body Computing, wants to record the heartbeat of every human on the planet. But her vision doesn’t stop there. Saxon wants to create an online network into which anyone can record their medical data through a wireless phone, so users can better understand and control their health and so researchers can follow and identify health trends, some of which may still be unknown.

On the final day of TEDMED2012, Saxon announced everyheartbeat.org, the site where she hopes to engender the “Facebook of medicine.” The site will begin with heartbeats, which smart phone owners could measure themselves with add-on accessories or even simply with an app that uses a smart phone’s camera to measure heart rate in a user’s finger.  Eventually, the idea is that users of everyheartbeat.org will be able to add many kinds of health data, from blood pressure to glucose levels to bouts of flu.

Saxon, a cardiologist, says the full-realization of everyheartbeat will create self-awareness in users and allow doctors and researchers to make new observations from profoundly large amounts of health data. She is already part of an ongoing study that is collecting the heart rate data of some 200,000 cardiac patients with implanted medical devices. But, of course, she doesn’t see the majority of everyheartbeat participants going under the knife for their health knowledge. Wearable sensors and mobile phone accessories and apps could give participants the power to collect some of their own data; other information, such as cholesterol levels, could come from tests at the doctor’s office. 

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