Social Considerations in Ambient Healthcare

CHI 2003 Workshop: Designing Culturally Situated Technologies For The Home

Joseph 'Jofish' Kaye
jofish at


Ten minute presentation. Here goes.
  1. Medical evidence: social interaction improves health
  2. Current social health/wellness care
  3. Current technologies: Newsgroups, webpages and mailing lists
  4. Future technologies: ubicomp, wireless connectivity
  5. Some design solutions...
  6. And a design problem

    1. Medical Evidence for importance of social interaction in healthcare

    It's now generally accepted that social support is extremely important in healthcare, particularly in diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

    "Social support has been associated with decreased cardiac mortality in both men and women, better physical and psychological status of cardiac patients and their caregivers, and better adherence to treatment routine"

    Bjornsdottir, G. Online social support for individuals concerned with heart disease: observing gender differences. Proceedings of AMIA '99. Avaliable at

    Infant birth weight is positively affected by amount and number of types of social support mother receives during pregnancy.

    Feldman P, Dunkel-Schetter C, Sandman, CA and Wadhwa PD. Social support during pregnancy can affect fetal growth and birth weight. Psychosomatic Medicine 2000:9/10.

    2. Current social health/wellness care

    A basic equation: one trades personal information (and a little privacy) for the support and positive competition provided by a social group. Works for...

    3. Current technologies: newsgroups, webpages and mailing lists

    Current electronic social support networks rely on mailing lists, webpages, and newsgroups.

    Useful, but...


    An interesting note: online forums for social healthcare support are statistically used more and seems to be more useful to women than men. (see Bjornsdottir 2001 for various refs)

    4. Future enabling technologies: Ubicomp and wireless

    Rather than spend time on this, I'm going to uncreatively assert that it's currently cheap to get a small amount of data to a device, it's only slightly more expensive to get data from a device, and that both are going to get cheaper and easier.

    5. Some design solutions from Ambient Devices

    1. Health Dashboard
    2. Pollen Meter

    5a. Some Design Solutions: Health Dashboard

    The Health Dashboard is a prototype information display device. Simple clock-like hands display various parameters environmental factors such as air quality and pollen forecasts, body metrics like blood pressure and peak flow, and behaviors that influence health like steps walked today. This is just a design prototype: the problems of how to measure and track these things is difficult and unsolved to date.

    5b. Some Design Solutions: Pollen Meter

    This is a mockup of the LCD; the actual current prototype uses phyical hands, similar to the dashboard. SDI International provides pollen counts by zipcode for the United States. Each meter has a unique address. The meter location is registered by calling an 800-number or visiting a website, and then the appropriate location-specific data is sent to that address from that point on.

    6. A design problem: Asthma in Springfield, MA

    The Asthma Project Working Group: medical and scientific experts on air quality from John Hopkins, MGH, Harvard Public Health, the EPA, and other researchers at MIT. The aim of the group is to deploy in-home air quality sensor units, and complimentary devices for displaying both in-home data (second-hand smoke) and larger, neighborhood-sized air quality sampling information (black carbon from diesel buses and major highways). Initially this study is concentrating on a neighborhood in Springfield, MA, which has the highest asthma morbidity rate in the state.

    Question: How to integrate the ability to sense and provide data specifically for the patient and their household, in a way that improves quality of life and health?