Can physicians improve health outcomes using new self-tracking tech with their patients? Or is the tech still too inaccurate or impractical? We take a hard look at the reality and potential with a physician testing quantified self practices in his clinic for the last 3 years.

This episode is about quantified medicine or the reality of cooperating with your physician using self-tracking and observation. Working with such feedback aims to bring fourth an integrated approach to health and performance.

Previously, we have looked at the value of a good physician on your team when looking to improve your health in episode 22 with Bob Troia, and at the potential of wearable measuring devices in episode 24 with Troy Angrignon.

Does the Quantified Self approach offer medical benefits? What is the potential of tracking your data and teaming-up with your physician during the healing or performance improving process? What are some simple ways to help yourself optimize yourself?

I think it is hard to take measurable insights and extract it in a medical, steady kind of way. And that’s why I continue to not be afraid of computers taking over my job, because ultimately I think there is a combination of metrics and data, and also presence and attention and experience that work together, and that’s why I think the medical profession has hope.
– Dr. Paul Abramson

Today’s guest is Dr. Paul Abramson who runs an integrative medicine practice in San Francisco. He earned his medical degree at the University of California in San Francisco (UCFS). Importantly, he also holds a degree from the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. As a member of the Clinical Faculty at UCSF, he is doubly board-certified in Family Medicine and Addiction Medicine.

Being a former electrical engineer, Dr. Abramson’s interest in patient self-tracking sprung early in his medical career. In 2007, he founded the My Doctor Medical Group – his medical practice institution offering customized coaching models for individuals. He has adjusted the Quantified Self Approach aiming to gain insight into specifics of patients’ health. He has seen the ups and downs of working with this type of quantifiable feedback. In his practice he cooperates with patients and asks them to be introspective. Given his originality and accumulated experience, Dr. Abramson is an important figure in shifting the paradigm towards personalized medical care and all-important patient involvement.

The episode highlights, biomarkers, and links to the apps, devices and labs and everything else mentioned are below. Enjoy the show and let me know what you think in the comments!

itunes quantified body

What You’ll Learn

  • Dr. Abramson’s interests in integrative medicine (4:04).
  • How Dr. Abramson defines integrative medicine (4:51).
  • The integrative approach means pivoting through the complexity of conventional therapy and the larger sphere around it (07:10).
  • Early on, Dr. Abramson pivoted towards a novel paradigm of patient self-measurement and observation (10:58).
  • Patient compliance is a problem for those who do not wish to continuously self-observe (14:24).
  • Using biomarker wearable meters provides knowledge important for informed behavior modification (16:39).
  • Dr. Abramson’s team places value on introspection and subjective observation of experience (20:02).
  • Patients are expected to self-explore and support their symptoms with subjective observations (22:53).
  • Determining useful metrics in medical practice requires careful deliberation over their reliability (27:14).
  • Simple subjective data on patient experience can be acted upon in complex medical conditions (29:16).
  • Patients with high intrinsic motivation are better-fit for using metrics in medical care (32:28).
  • Dr. Abramson has successfully applied awareness building exercises in individual coaching models (34:15).
  • Mobile apps can be used to track patient data and integrate it in could-sharing services (37:33).
  • The challenges of self-tracking broadly differ between lack of patient motivation and too-narrow hypotheses about undergoing causes (40:13).
  • Success with self-observation depends on developing optimized coaching matching individual patients (42:23).
  • There is less pressure on doctors’ medical authority positions when collaborating with patients in the context of team-care (49:50).
  • The more responsibility patients take, the more they acquaint themselves and the doctor with their health dynamics (52:16).
  • The biomarkers Dr. Abramson tracks on a routine basis to monitor and improve his health, longevity and performance (54:41).
  • Dr.Abramson’s one biggest recommendation on using body data to improve your health, longevity and performance (58:55).
  • Best ways to connect with Dr. Abramson, who is responsive on social media (60:00).

Thank Dr. Paul Abramson on Twitter for this interview.
Click Here to let him know you enjoyed the show!

Dr. Paul Abramson, My Doctor Medical Group

Tools & Tactics

Diet & Nutrition

  • Autoimmune Protocol Diet: The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is an elimination diet that works to reduce inflammation in the intestines caused by autoimmune triggers.

Tracking

Biomarkers

  • Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM): Promises greater accuracy than standard one point in time glucose monitoring by capturing the variance of blood glucose over time (Note: in Episode 22 we saw an experiment showing the detriments of just taking one point in time readings). Blood glucose is continuously recorded at frequent intervals such as 1 or 5 minutes depending on the device used. While not a widely established practice, Dr. Abramson claims that continuously tracking blood sugar levels offers insight into fine-tuning medication and behavior adjustments to optimize patient glucose-levels. It’s early stages, but there are a few Continuous glucose meters (CGMs) on the market. Current devices include the Medtroronic MiniMed 530G, the Dexcom G4 PLATINUM System and the Abbott FreeStyle Navigator II (available in UK only).
  • Blood pressure: Blood pressure is expressed in terms of the systolic (maximum) pressure over diastolic (minimum) pressure and its measure is in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal resting blood pressure in an adult is approximately 120/80 mm Hg. Among numerous indications, blood pressure is used as a biomarker to determine the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Lab Tests, Devices and Apps

  • Zeo Sleep Manager: Zeo was Dr. Abramson’s favorite Sleep Manager (device and app combo) until the company went bankrupt. Zeo tells you how you really sleep, and helps you find ways to improve your sleep. It accurately measures sleep quality and quantity at home. It also discovers factors which harm your sleep cycle.
  • Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer: The Withings company offers devices designed to monitor various aspects of your body. Tracking tools include weight and body composition, pulse, air quality screening, etc.
  • ResMed S-Plus: The company ResMed is focused on healthy sleep. To this end, it offers devices which monitor personal sleep parameters, room air quality, etc.
  • Beddit: The company Beddit offers devices which track sleep using a sensitive force sensor which detect small vibrations caused by your heartbeats, breathing, and movements to provide you with data regarding your sleep.
  • Evernote App: In the context of tracking subjective experiences regarding health, Damien suggests using this app to take notes in a form of a health-diary.

Other People, Books & Resources

People

  • Dr. Andrew Weil: Founder & Program Director of the Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Weil is an influential figure for Dr. Abramson’s interests in integrative medicine and his, overall, career.

Organizations


Full Interview Transcript

Click Here to Read Transcript
(04:04)[Paul Abramson]: I’ve been very imbued in the conventional science-based – I put science in quotes – world. I’ve also been very interested in alternative points of view and meditation, and what I would call consciousness and behavior, and the things that are, in essence, insubstantial in a material sense, but I think are often just as relevant to our lives and well-being.

So in that vain, I have individual interests and pursuits in those areas, and then I went to work for Andrew Wylie in Tuscon at the University of Arizona in his integrated medicine program there. I was a residential fellow for a year, and we swapped patients there and had case conferences with some of his…

(04:51) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: To take a step back, what does integrative medicine mean? Because we haven’t really talked about it on this show before.

[Paul Abramson]: Integrative medicine has 100 definitions, and it has been, I would say, used and corrupted by a variety of different people and interests over the years.

As I define it, and I think I’m pretty much in line with Andrew Wylie on this, integrative medicine is a way of looking at all of the available approaches, perspectives, tools, tests, treatments that are out there. And then looking at each individual as an individual, and trying to make a match between what’s going on for them and what is the best combination of approaches.

So in essence it includes all of conventional medicine and science-based, or whatever you want to call it, conventional medicine, and it includes alternative things. And it includes consciousness based things, and it includes mind and body and it can even include spirituality and things that are unknowable as part of the paradigm by which you try to help people both understand what’s going on for them and come up with a plan of what to do next.

So I think it’s completely non-exclusive, and I also apply a very discerning and discriminating kind of eye to it, in that of all the available options out there I’m going to evaluate each one on how useful do I think this is? And there are some things that do not need my sniff test, or my deep investigation that I do not… And once I’ve determined that I’m not really interested in something, or I don’t think it’s going to be fruitful for me as one of my tools, I leave it to the side.

So I do weed things out. It is not an indiscriminate approach of ‘all is good’. It is more like, I’m going to start with an open mind and then apply appropriate skepticism and investigation to choose what tools I think are going to be helpful. And they may vary depending on the individual.

So I do not apply a one-size-fits-all approach to anybody. There’s no one test or one treatment that I think is applicable to everybody. Nor is there one paradigm that I think is applicable to everybody. So, for some people that is dis-concerning.

(07:10) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: So in integrative medicine, is there an actual organization behind that, or is it more a term used for people who are dabbling in functional medicine, the alternative, and the…

[Paul Abramson]: Well, there is now a board certification in integrative medicine for medical doctors. There is a consortium of academic centers in integrative medicine that includes many of the big tertiary care centers in the United States that have integrative medicine centers and research programs.

And I think a lot of that comes into this kind of definition, where it’s consistent with the conventional medical world and a much larger sphere around it.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: The functional medicine has an organization behind it, so does integrative medicine tend to relate to that more because there’s a big organization behind it? Versus some of the other things you were talking [about], which I imagine don’t have as much structure to them.

[Paul Abramson]: Well integrative medicine ultimately is, I think, integrated, meaning it’s not an either-or proposition. It’s, ‘whatever works’.

Whereas some of the other things out there are more alternative. Where it’s more of an ‘us versus them’ kind of situation, where we have a certain truth and those other people, especially either the conventional people or the alternative people, are biased, wrong, or otherwise not reputable in some way, and therefore you should pay attention to our perspective.

That is not, to me, integrative. But I think the conventional medical world falls into that trap, and I think the functional and alternative medicine world falls into that trap. Equally.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s kind of like Republicans and Democrats.

[Paul Abramson]: It’s kind of like Republicans and Democrats.

And in reality I would say my flavor of integrative medicine, or what I consider, is it’s not exclusive in that way. It’s like of all the things out there, some of them are valid, some of them are not, some of them work for some people, some of them don’t work for some people.

And you just have to be creative, and you have to be discerning and discriminating enough to not get overwhelmed by the complexity. You have to be able to take this, in essence, if you are not ready for tolerating ambiguity and dealing with massive complexity, then it’s easier to track into something that is simpler, where it’s more clear cut and there is right and wrong.

Whereas if you want to take the big picture, you have to help people weed through all of this complexity to come up with a relatively normal, simple approach that is going to work for them. And then you have to be willing to measure and then accept if it is not working out you’re going to back up and take another set of things and take another approach.

Then in the start-up technology world out here they call it pivoting, where you do something, you go full worth at it, and then you try it to the best of your ability, but you have to be constantly measuring your success. And if it’s not working out, you have to get over your ego and your attachment, and you have to back up and re-think and pivot, and keep moving.

Yeah, that is the [unclear 10:10] approach to medicine that I can think of.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s a very interesting point because – and you’ll know better than me – people when it comes to health, fitness, these diets, and these types of areas, they get very, very emotional about it. They tend to become fans of a certain approach rather than another.

I guess pivoting is, I understand because I’m an entrepreneur. My first company, I didn’t want to let go of it. I didn’t want to change it at first, until the pain in terms of profit loss got enough that I was like, “Okay, I have to be serious.” And I was taught to be able to pivot and make decisions based on data.

So I guess that probably happens a little bit in the medicine world as well. People eventually get to this point of pain, where they’ve been following some course because of interest, of love, and then they go, “Okay I have to try and get some kind of data.”

(10:58) Now, we first met, albeit kind of briefly because you were doing a talk, at the Quantified Self conference in 2013 – end of 2013 I think it was. And so that’s also one of the things you’ve dabbled in a bit in you integrative medicine. Could you talk a little bit about why you started taking an interest in that and have made that a part of your practice?

[Paul Abramson]: Well I think it does come back to what we were just talking about. You have to gather data about what’s going on for each individual to decide, is this working, is this not working. Or, are there things happening that are not good, that should trigger us, like your losses in your start-up.

The earlier you can detect and decide that things are not going to go down the right path, you should pivot. And yet if you’re not sure, you might continue to go on for a while and take more measurements. But you have to be constantly…

And so I was struggling in medicine with a lack of feedback on my patients. We were meeting and setting a treatment plan in place, and they were going off to do it. And I just was not getting enough feedback to know whether it was working, whether it needed to be adjusted, or whether we needed to completely pivot and try something else.

And so the promise with the Quantified Self approach is that it’s not so much that there is a new sensor or a new test that is interesting to me, but it’s a new paradigm, it’s a new concept that people are going to observe themselves, and then perhaps feed that back into a medical doctor or some other practitioner or some helper that they have, a coach.

But many people just decide to do it for themselves, where they’re moving along with a plan, and they’re measuring, and they’re questioning, and they’re constantly just trying to decide,” Do I keep going, do I add, do I subtract, or do I pivot?”

And I started doing these kinds of experiments with people where you can then take all of human behavior and make it an experimental approach, where, instead of saying, “You have to take this medication for your high blood pressure forever.” People hate that.

What I do is I say, “Wow. You’re blood pressure is really high. We’ve measured it over a whole month and it’s always really high. We know that’s going to wear out your blood vessels, and your kidneys, and your brain, and it ages you faster to have high blood pressure all the time. So, why don’t we lower it? And then, why don’t we start doing some experiments to see if we can find the cause, or reverse the cause, or come up with other approaches that are more agreeable to you, if you’re not really into taking pharmaceuticals every day.”

Which many people aren’t. And at such time as those thing start working, we can think about revisiting. I just say, while we’re doing those experiments, let’s limit the damage. And people respond much better to that. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m just going to keep the high blood pressure going, and then in six months I will have lost 40 pounds.”

Maybe that happens, maybe it doesn’t happen. Maybe they lost 40 pounds and their blood pressure is still through the roof high. It’s a realistic approach that takes measurement into account, but also addresses what’s going on right now.

And the tools we have from Quantified Self, some of the technology but more the paradigm of self measurement and observation, gives us some hope that the culture could shift into that kind of approach.

(14:24)[Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s interesting in a kind of work relationship. How does it change the work relationship between you and the patient when you introduce this? Do you work out some specific metrics with them, or is it really very different?

Have you seen this evolve in your practice? Because you’ve been doing this for a few years now, so I’m sure you’ve cut some things that didn’t work, and taken some things that did tend to work, and you’ve kind of got some type of best practice that you’re starting to put in place.

[Paul Abramson]: Well, it’s been humbling. People are very different.

They’re different in their background, they’re different in their medical and psychological situation, they’re different in their social circumstances and their family, and what the support is in their life to do things. And so some people actually just want me to say, “This is what you’ve got, this is what you have to do,” and to prescribe to them. And they go home and they take their drugs.

And we limit the damage, as best we know how with modern medicine, and sometimes that works out, and sometimes that doesn’t. But they don’t have time or interest or, even maybe the perspective, to take a different kind of, more proactive approach.

And for those people, after I challenge it a little bit and determine that it is in fact how they want to be.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s interesting. Are they not interested enough in their health to, or is it because they’re so busy with other things in life? What is the [reason]?

[Paul Abramson]: For whatever reason, they are not in a position where they want to do something that takes more work. What really sort of takes up more subjective view of reality, like there is a way.

There are many choices out there, it’s not really black and white. Some people really want the black and white. It’s easier for them psychologically, and it’s sometimes they’re just so busy, they’re like, “No way I’m going to have time to do experiments, or even to take my blood pressure twice a week.”

We’re just going to have to go without that. Especially diabetics. A lot of them just can’t check their blood sugar. Type 2 Diabetes, you know, it’s not really medically mandatory in many conventional settings for them to check their blood sugar at all time. You just take the medications and get some blood tests every few months and see how things are going.

That’s very unsatisfying for an engineer like myself. I really would want data and feedback and optimizing. But many people are really not into that. It’s either a cultural thing, or just a logistical thing. They just aren’t going to do that.

(16:39) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Just out of interest, have you looked at the continuous glucose monitors?

[Paul Abramson]: Oh yes.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Have you been using those quite a bit? Or have found them useful?

[Paul Abramson]: Well, I mean they are generally able to be covered by insurance. They’re very expensive.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, about a 1,000-1,500 dollars, something around there.

[Paul Abramson]: The supplies are also very expensive. Each and every week you need a new implanted sensor that could be hundreds of dollars. So, it can really add up in a hurry per month and the initial costs. Such that many people aren’t going to do that.

Now if you’re a Type 1 Diabetic from a young age or even an older age where you have no insulin around, and insulin pumps are in the offing, then often they can be covered. But for Type 2 Diabetics it’s usually a completely out-of-pocket expense. And what I’ve found is that there are often incredibly great insights that one obtains from the continuous glucose model, but only some people get on-going benefit.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: What kind of [insights]? Does it enable you to take some specific actions when you see some kind of behavior that they’re undertaking which is interfering with your goals, or…?

[Paul Abramson]: I’m not really offering generally to watch their data continuously.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.

[Paul Abramson]: What we are doing is having them get self-feedback, and then take notes in one way – electronic or paper – of their experiences with that data from the glucose monitor. Because you have to calibrate them with a finger stick multiple times per day, and you have to use it properly to try to get valid data. And then you get to see in real time if you eat something, or if you exercise, you get very quick feedback about how it affects your blood sugar, both immediately and later.

And so you can get pretty profound insights about that, and they are sometimes very unexpected. That some things lower your blood sugar and some things raise your blood sugar, and they don’t match what the conventional wisdom says should happen.

And then somethings people just have to get it in their face that, “Wow, if I exercise my blood sugar really is so much better.” It’s motivating enough that it’s going to make them exercise more.

But a lot of people, after they get those insights, if they’re Type 2 Diabetic, they can simply just use those wisdoms to change their behavior, and they don’t have to go through the hassle of calibrating and wearing an implanted monitor that has something go into their skin changed every week and calibrated several times a day. A lot of people don’t really want to do that on-going.

So then when you look at the up-front expense for something that they’re only going to use for a relatively limited period of time in most cases – because most people are not going to want to be doing that level of hassle if it’s not required because they’re not Type 1 Diabetic – a lot of people chose not to do the continuous model.

Maybe when we get the truly non-invasive blood-glucose sensor that is both accurate and possible. When I was an electrical engineering grad student at Stanford in the early 1990s, I was doing consulting for start-ups. Before there was the first technology, the first internet tech.

And I worked for a couple of different start-ups that were trying to get non-invasive blood glucose monitors, where they would shine a light through you, or they would use ultra-sonic. They would use various technologies to try to get, from the outside, your blood sugar. And the problem is glucose is such a small molecule, and so hard to differentiate from other molecules that really a lot of companies went belly-up back then, and they are still failing today.

(20:02)[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I think there’s a couple of watches. I’ve seen them around. I haven’t looked into them. I was concerned about the accuracy. I guess I’m a bit dubious about [them].

Because even the continuous glucose monitor, which you were just saying you have to calibrate it, right? And it’s got something actually implanted in you. So the accuracy of a watch with optical – I think they’re using optical – would seem kind of not achievable at this point.

[Paul Abramson]: This is the exact technology that they were trying to come up with in the start-up in 1992. And it ultimately did not kind of work out. And I think that at some point someone is probably going to do it, but to my knowledge it has not yet been done in a valid enough way that you could actually take action on the results.

But maybe there is something that I don’t know about that came out this year, and I will continuously watch that Weiner Chart. [unclear, 29:48-] at that, somewhere about 15 years ago after watching failure and failure.

So, I would just say that the measurement technology concept is something that you need to be very skeptical about, because if you’re going to take bold action based on the numbers, it better be accurate and reliable and reproducible and usable. So that is an on-going concern for me.

Now, more subjective measures, what we really came to in our self-tracking program here, one, is that we don’t apply a similar methodology to anybody. Everybody kind of gets a custom approach based on where they are in their readiness to do things, and what problem they want to solve.

But we’ve also really heavily weighted it toward, what I would call, subjective measures that require them to actually stop and pay attention to what’s going on in their experience. Because the objective measures that don’t take any [action], the passive tracking approach where I wear a monitor and it spews data out at gigabytes per minute, it does not require awareness and it doesn’t require self-knowledge. The learning is later when you look at the data.

Whereas if you aim to gather the data, if you have to introspect and think and become more aware of what’s going on about your pain level, or whatever your symptoms are, or your emotional state, or in any way something that you have to pay attention to measure – because we don’t have a measurement for headache except by your self-report – the data gathering itself becomes a therapeutic tool.

The act of tracking is part of the treatment in that they become much more aware of what is actually going on for them, so that when we start trying to change things or treat or affect things in a positive way, they actually have more basis on which to do that, and we can identify more potential targets for more interventions.

(22:53)[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you think basically building their awareness so that you can create that feedback is one of the most important parts of it?

[Paul Abramson]: For us, it is. And I’m a behaviorist at heart. I like to have people try things overtime, and to see whether building new tracks and new behaviors in their brain can affect their body and their experience and their entire reality.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So do you then find that patients are able to come to you with insights more so than before? Because all traditional [unclear audio cut, 23:25]. I have some mystery problem. I’m coming to a doctor, and the first thing to do is talk about my symptoms. Go for a questionnaire, try and figure out what’s going on.

Do you find that sometimes that first picture, say compared to a second picture when you’ve had them self-tracking something you thought was relevant, could be quite different? Because it is a subjective experience, and they learn to improve their self-awareness and have a better hold of what’s going on. And maybe, do they sometimes come up with some insights like, “It’s funny. I’ve noticed that every time I do this, then I get these symptoms.”

[Paul Abramson]: Right. Well people often come to their doctor – and that’s my frame of reference, because I’m a medical doctor and people come to me – they come with symptoms, but they also come with conclusions. And they might be already having diagnosed themselves, or they might just have made some assumptions or conclusions about why they’re having the experience that they’re having.

And I think the self-tracking paradigm encourages them to back up to the raw symptoms, and also the circumstances that they find themselves in. You know, looking broadly at what are their circumstances and what are their symptoms in as concrete a fashion as possible. And not making any assumptions. And then we make some hypothesis. But we frame them as hypothesis and not conclusions, and that gets them into an exploratory mode.

Whereas if someone comes to me and says, “I have a urinary tract infection.” And I am a [unclear, 24:50] and I have eight minutes, I will prescribe ciprofloxacin to them for the urinary tract infection, and they will go away. Especially if they say, “Oh I’ve had them many times and I know what they’re like.” That is not my style of medicine.

I’m going to say, “Well what are you actually feeling?” And they’re going to say, “Oh, I have burning when I urinate” or “I have fevers” or “I have back pain” or whatever. It’s very likely in someone coming to the doctor that they are correct, in that circumstance, but sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they have a yeast infection and it’s not a bladder infection, and giving them antibiotics makes it worse.

So I think you should always back up. But then especially if it’s something vexing, they have probably been trying to figure out and fix it on their own for some time. Weeks, months, years, decades sometimes. So if it were something, if their conclusions were correct – not their diagnosis, but their assumptions and conclusions – I believe they would have figured it out, and they never would have met me.

So therefore, the fact that they are coming to me with the time and expense and the hassle of going to a doctor, it’s very intimidating for some people, it means they are probably ready for a pivot. It’s a sign that it is probably time to take a different approach.

So if I can get people to back up and look at the raw data, the raw symptoms, and then we can look at all the possibilities and start to make some hypothesis. And some of the hypothesis might be the conclusions they have drawn, but they have to be willing to have some flexibility about looking at other options. Otherwise, I might be a poor match for them.

If they just want someone to take their conclusions and follow their line of thought, then my view is, okay, they either don’t need me at all, or they only need me because I – in California – can order laboratory tests for them. Or I can order medications for them that they can not legally order on their own. So in essence I am just a proxy for them having gone through the license pathway that I’ve gone through, and I’m not really functioning as a physician as I define it.

And so I try to resist getting involved in just being a tool that they can wield, and I try to work with people who actually want to back up and really take a look at what is going on.

(27:14)[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So what kind of metrics have you typically found to be useful? You said the qualitative. Are these ratings from one to 10 for symptoms? What kind of things have you found that are useful?

[Paul Abramson]: A wide variety of things. With each metric we have a discussion about what is the, what are we going to track?

Let’s say for a headache, are we going to track mild, moderate, severe? Are we going to track zero to four? Actually, the numbers and bins of data collection that you define dramatically affect the results of your tracking. You have to all agree on what each bin means.

What does three stars mean? It can vary widely over many people, and that makes it useless. And then they have to have written down what each metric means so that they can apply it as consistently as possible over time. Because if they drift in what a headache of three means, then their data is going to be very hard to use.

So, we try to apply this sort of N of 1 controls as best we can to define things clearly, to re-visit them, to keep people calibrated. And then try to figure out is it a negative two to two scale, or is it a zero-four scale that’s going to be helpful. And try to make it as simple as possible so that people can actually do it in real life.

Sometimes you have to use subjective narrative data, and that’s why we’ve taken a coaching model rather than a computer analysis model. Because the most interesting things sometimes are the things that they write. Their observations about the process, or about the data. It could be a picture of something, it could just be a description of how they were feeling at the time that they had the high-blood pressure. That’s actually much more interesting.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So is that like a journal alongside whatever you’re tracking?

[Paul Abramson]: Yeah. And it could be an electronic journal, or a paper journal. My challenge with technology tools is they have to beat paper. If they do not win over paper, then you have to question why you’re using technology.

(29:16) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: It’s interesting that you’ve brought that up, because I struggle with my own problem, just figuring it out, and what kind of first worked for me was using EverNote as a journal.

[Paul Abramson]: Sure.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Just as kind of like a diary every day, one note for every day in a folder which was called ‘Health Diary.’ And then also tracking some metrics. And like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I wrote– “

[Paul Abramson]: Paper apps. It’s almost paper.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right. Yeah. And it’s easy to search. I mean, that’s why it’s nice, because if you have some kind of hypothesis in your head, you can select that folder and you can search for that keyword, and you’re like, “Oh, look. It happened on four days, and maybe it coincides with the metric.”

[Paul Abramson]: Sure. And that’s what I would call primitive technology like paper. And sometimes it is the best approach, because something much more complicated will keep you from gathering the data, because it’s too cumbersome.

It’s very hard to apply machine learning and machine interpretation of data because the raw numbers rarely have the meaningful insights. And our basic model, we’ve gotten more flexible about exactly how we implement it.

Initially, we were doing a weekly coaching model, where people would track, the data would be shared with a coach who would meet with them – in person or virtually – every week to review their data and basically elicit their memories of what happened that week that they had not taken down as part of the data. So they would use the pictures or numbers or whatever they had tracked.

People remember a week. Most people. Whereas if you go back a month, people do not remember the moment to moment experience they were having. Which is probably why psychotherapy is typically a weekly model, because you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, you can build on the previous week because you remember.

And so the coaching model would allow people to tell the story around the data, and then the coach would concisely record the story and plug it into the project, or the experiment that we were running, and try to write down the story and the insights that could be taken. And then the insights and the summary of the story could be fed back to me, the physician, where very quickly I could think about it and apply my perhaps greater perspective or set of ideas, and make suggestions.

And so it became very time efficient for me. Rather than me going through the data for an hour every week, I can go through the coach’s notes for a few minutes and be almost as effective. And in some cases much more effective than I could be trying to be the coach myself.

The raw data was almost never the actionable. Now, that’s not always true. If we’re just doing a very simple tracking experiment where your blood pressure is 220 over 120, and we want it to get lower very quickly, and we’re going to track what you’re doing and what medications you’re taking, and how often you’re taking it, and track your blood pressure.

There you actually do have a much more concrete, discrete kind of experiment that you could apply some sort of automation to. But that’s not typically why people are coming to me. Most people are coming with much more complicated and murky problems where subjective data is really the actionable data.

(32:28) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: If we’re talking about the situations where you’ve found this most useful, is it it the more mysterious, people haven’t been able to figure out any[thing], the complex, multi-factorial potentially.

But as you mentioned, is there also something on the very hard side, nearly technical, where you have a blood pressure marker and it’s a very focused metric, that you are like, “We have to get that down.” From doctor’s experience and everything, this is the thing we need to focus on. So you know ahead of time what you want to focus on.

Are those the kind of two situations, or are there other situations where…

[Paul Abramson]: I would say it’s a whole spectrum, but the key factor is that if the tracking based on insights and memory and subjective recall are round objective data that you’re gathering is by it’s nature very labor intensive. Like this process, to really do a meaningful tracking experiment, is labor intensive and costly in various ways.

You have to hire help, you have to spend a lot of time, you have to think about it. You have to be involved in the process, and for that reason, that typically is applied to problems that are either very urgent or long-term vexing for people. They tend to be more complicated because they are at the end of their rope, and they need help, and they are ready to do anything just to figure this out.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right.

[Paul Abramson]: And that’s a wonderful situation to be in.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: For a doctor, yeah. Compliance.

[Paul Abramson]: Their intrinsic motivation is very high. The outcomes tend to be good in anyone who comes to a doctor with high intrinsic motivation to do whatever it takes. And we do select in our practice for people with that description. So our outcomes are phenomenal, but part of that is selecting some people who are ready to do whatever it takes to figure this out.

(34:15) So the other area other than complex medical mysteries that we’ve applied this to, well there are several areas. One, our awareness building exercises, where about half of our practice is also a complex addiction treatment practice for high-functioning professionals. And some very intelligent people, many of them in the tech industry, who have what I would consider very mundane addiction problem.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Is this like caffeine, or are we talking more…

[Paul Abramson]: Alcohol, cocaine, prescription opiates.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay. Is this quite common now? Because we all hear bout the performance culture, and everyone–

[Paul Abramson]: It is incredibly common now.

It has always been incredibly common, and yet it continues to be incredibly common. And the more fast and stressful and complex society gets, as we’re currently going through a little boom here in San Francisco, I would say it increases. And the number of people who go out of control increases, where it gets beyond the place where they can self manage, and they seek professional help.

So we are often trying to get people to do very basic tracking [endeavors]. Whether it’s their internal mood state, or their discomfort level, or interactions they’re having with other people. Or whatever triggers they encounter that trigger them to want to self-soothe or improve their performance by taking their substance or alcohol of interest. And it’s a very simple tracking model aimed at getting them to be more aware, so that they can then have more decision over their reality.

The other one is, like the blood pressure example. Where we are trying to achieve, or what’s been going on forever, is the diabetes blood sugar tracking model. Physicians have been asking people to track their blood sugars for a long time now, and it’s actually very useful.

The last realm, I would say, is in the performance improvement category. People who are okay but they want to be better, or they want to achieve a certain goal, whether that is in their body composition or it’s in performance at a triathlon, or it is in their work performance and their attention and their ability to accomplish things.

It’s more of a positive desire to improve by tracking and feeding that. That’s very motivating for me, and yet it is hard to find the people who want to do the self-tracking approach to that, because it’s pretty labor intensive and these tend to be busy people.

So if you’re an Olympic athlete and you have a whole team of people geared up at measuring you, at feeding back and changing your performance and changing what you do, and you have all that support around it, I think people can pull it off, if they’re a competitive high-level professional athlete.

For the regular person without that support team, we have had some challenges trying to construct a model that is both affordable and does not require an NFL team support staff to accomplish, and also doable by people who are also leading lives and not full time training. That’s an on-going exploratory area for us, and trying to find what is a model, in a manageable way.

(37:33) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: In terms of any tools you use, just kind of talking practicalities here, are you just asking people to use a little mobile phone app and put down a note in that, or is it sometimes Excel, or is it basically whatever they need, you’re like, “What would you find easiest to track this metric that I want you to look at.”

[Paul Abramson]: We have been using the mobile phone app that we’ve been working with a developer on called MyMe, which I have been on record has having mentioned over the years, which is a very simple way to just set arbitrary buttons up for whatever they want to track. And set whatever ranges of metrics you want to track, take pictures, etc. and then collate it on a central server where they account is owned by the individual, not by me, but then they choose to share their data with the coach or with me during the sessions.

Otherwise they hold they data and own the data, and we just keep in our files our observations of the sessions with them while looking at the data. And so that keeps it simple from a privacy standpoint and from a daily curation standpoint. And it’s worked fairly well.

We also, if they don’t like that tool or if they have different things they want to measure, we will take a whatever-works approach and try to get them to use other tools, most of which are not geared towards this. Most of them are geared towards other applications, most of the existing tools.

Amazingly, there isn’t a good, flexible generic tool that’s consumer available, where you can also involve a team. And maybe there is. Now, when you can share the data but it’s also designed at helping analyze things and helping collate and curate data.

And so MyMe is working on that. It’s not yet available to consumers, it’s just sort of for clinicians and doctors and people who are working with people who are self-tracking.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So there are other people like you working with MyMe?

[Paul Abramson]: Yeah.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Okay. Alright. All this stuff we put in the show notes.

[Paul Abramson]: Then there’s various companies that have tracking devices, and each one has their own cloud where they track the data from their own devices, and some of them will integrate data from other devices apps. And it’s coming together in some ways that I think might be good, but it’s been so slow to develop that I’m frustrated.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah.

I used to be a telecoms consultant, and I worked in the interactive television market in the UK, which was one of the first markets in the world, and they had this walled-garden approach to it. And we were all talking about the open, like you have to open it up. And it took nearly a decade to happen properly.

And it’s always the same, except for the internet, luckily, which was pretty much open to start with.

(40:13) So, that’s great. What are the biggest challenges you’ve come across in trying to make self-tracking work? Have you had any failed, like – I don’t know how to put it – have you had failed self-tracking projects, where you’ve just been like, “Okay, after six months of tracking let’s just ditch this?”

[Paul Abramson]: Basically, they fall into two camps. One is where the self-tracking paradigm is too much work or isn’t intrinsically rewarding enough for the person to keep them going. Where the time and expense and hassle and all that isn’t worth it, and they drop out once they just get frustrated, or don’t continue.

The other is that their hypotheses are too narrow. The hypotheses they are willing to consider are too narrow. And we explore those deeply and broadly and do not find the answer in that narrow set of hypotheses, and they tire of doing the project, because it seems hopeless.

Whereas, I actually believe that there is always a way, but it may not be a way forward that people expect or desire.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So it’s basically like a process of elimination with one experiment, another experiment?

[Paul Abramson]: Well if the only hypothesis is that some food is causing my symptoms, and we just need to find what food, combination of foods, or other environmental physical inputs, are causing my symptoms.

And once we really convincingly do out that experiment, either they are willing to do the experiments, one, and the answer is not food – we believe that for a while. Or they are unwilling to do some of the experiments because they are too attached to certain things.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I love coffee.

[Paul Abramson]: Or marijuana, or [unclear 41:55]. Unwilling to give up certain things. But we look at everything else, and everybody gets tired. Those are the places where actually there’s a different paradigm that we need to apply. We need to do a pivot, but they don’t want to pivot.

And then you run into a dead-end in the start-up of events, or start-up company ends, ceases to be. And everybody goes off to do other things, and that is sometimes what happens.

(42:23) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great. And you referred to earlier that you had a lot of success with this. Could you share some of the success stories you’ve had? Has this improved your practice, would you say immensely, a bit?

[Paul Abramson]: I would say it has improved it measurably, but not immensely.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Immensely is a big word.

[Paul Abramson]: We are still working on optimal paradigms, to make the paradigm match the individual, and to try to bring it into a combination of energy and time and price that can match anybody. And we have not yet figured all that out. So that’s why it’s not immeasurably.

If we can apply these kind of concepts to every patient, and successfully because we can custom make it for each individual than it would be game changing. And that’s what we’re aiming for.

So I say this, successes are where either there is a simple answer, or a complex simple answer. It’s too complex for them to have figured out by introspection and their own tracking, but with some professional help we can get to that slightly more complicated insight that allows a dietary change or experiment or supplements or changes in their medications, or some other intervention to suddenly work. And then sometimes the tracking helps them to implement that intervention.

If it’s a food change, sometimes that takes a lot of time to change habits, behaviors, and family food production dynamics, etc. And sometimes the self-tracking is very supportive in that. Or, we exhaust one avenue of exploration and it gets them to the place where they are ready to consider other paradigms, where maybe it’s not food, maybe it’s, I don’t know, my relationship with my husband and son.

Maybe, as one patient found out, there was some very, very stressful, vexing, and long-standing family dynamics going on at home that clearly, once we got to know them, were contributory to the situation and symptoms.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: What kind of symptoms, just to give people a reading on this?

[Paul Abramson]: The common classes of symptoms that people come to that are hard to diagnose are fatigue, pain of various kinds, neuropathic pain or muscular, skeletal pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms. And when those are accompanied by relatively normal tests and investigations from a conventional paradigm, many times they run into roadblocks with the conventional medical world, where they say, “Well you’re normal.”

So, you are plunked into a wastebasket diagnosis that doesn’t really describe why, it just describes what is going on in a very descriptive, but not very helpful way. Chronic fatigue syndrome doesn’t, in it’s current form, really help people to move forward, except weight and exercise, and similar things that are not typically very satisfying to people. And when they work, it’s great, but for some people that’s not the whole answer.

It could be very inflammatory conditions and rheumatological conditions that do have objective markers that are abnormal that don’t fit into any paradigm. So that I’m tempted to throw heavy drugs at them. And yet they just run into a diagnoses appended by the word NOS, not otherwise specified, meaning it’s not something that the conventional world takes a strong interest in, because they don’t have a discrete category to put it in.

And so that is one common class of people where sometimes it is what they think it is, because they have been reading blogs on the internet that say that food is the cause. If you change your food, you can cure anything. That is a common paradigm that you read about on the internet, especially people promoting a certain food paradigm, that basically all mystery illnesses should be treatable with food. Or are from some food trigger, that if you eliminate it or figure it out.

Hence the autoimmune protocol diet, which is an extreme elimination diet, or is very specific and very hard to implement, and may help some people, but for most is just, it’s not the end all answer. And so many people come very frustrated and wanting to find [some solution], but they’re still on the food path.

And once we kind of figure out that maybe there are other factors involved, even medical or psychological or social or spiritual, we can come up with a more integrative approach that is much more fruitful for them, either to fix their symptoms or to make it so that the symptoms are not as disabling, or that they can do everything they want to do in life because they’re able to mitigate the symptoms and improve their ability to function with those symptoms.

Because it’s of my opinion that getting the symptoms to go away, while it is always the goal, sometimes in this world there are mysteries, and being comfortable that sometimes there is a mystery and you have to work with it is the paradigm shift that has to happen.

Now, you don’t want to start with that, because ultimately people come to a doctor to get cured. And that’s really the cultural paradigm that we operate in, and I like to acknowledge that, and I like to participate in it, but I also like to continue to try to expand the paradigm to include other things.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: So you’re saying you can improve the situation as well.

[Paul Abramson]: Yeah. And sometimes actually taking a more open-minded approach about what could be contributing and working on function rather than cure. Improving function rather than the functional medicine paradigm/vision that underline all illness, there is some root cause that you can discover, and once you discover the root cause, everything will get better.

And that is wonderful when it happens, and yet sometimes you have to take a more solution focused and practical approach to, “What do I want to accomplish in my life? How can I get there?” Sometimes that actually causes the symptoms to diminish, even though you never really find out what caused them.

So I think it’s helpful to keep an open mind about that, and yet most people in our society come in with a materialist obsession that it must be some biochemical or discoverable, testable thing that is causing my symptoms. And we have to work with that for a while.

And either it’s true and we cure them and we’re heroes – I get to be Dr. House every so often where I discover that mystery root cause, and it’s beautiful. But other times we have to take a more practical approach.

I think in the psychotherapy world, there’s the Freudian analytic perspective, where you find that one insight from your childhood and then your current problems will get better, or there’s the cognitive behavioral approach where, we’ll let’s just deal with what’s going on now and how you’re going to deal with it, and maybe what happened in the past will sort of take care of itself. And so I think that can be applied to human medicine, or physical medicine, as well.

But I always meet people at whatever level of the materialist spectrum their on, and I go there first. Because ultimately, they need to do the experiment for themselves. They cannot take my word for it.

(49:50) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right.

It sounds like a very team focused approach to the whole doctoring thing, which isn’t really traditional. It sounds more from the modern world. I mean, we’re seeing team building and team practices in a lot of what we do in the world now, thanks to corporates and so on. Would you say that it’s changed the way you approach the practice, and the way you work with patients?

[Paul Abramson]: I think I’ve always taken this approach to working with patients. It’s not new to me. And yet, I think you’re right, in the conventional paradigm, it is hard to find. There’s a lot more words and verbiage around this team approach in the healthcare world now because of the politics going on, but in practice it’s still really hard to find a collaborator, someone who is more focused on doing the process right than on the outcome.

And we’re going to really focus on improving the process and changing the process dynamically as we go through working with each individual. That comes from my engineering background in systems engineering and out of control system theory and designing things is that you have to constantly change your approach based on what’s going on. And that takes feedback and communication, and it takes two people who are aligned working together.

Now there is a power differential. I have an MD, I wear a stethoscope, there is some value to that role differential. Someone who is looking for help from a professional who, in theory, has maybe some things to offer based on my experience and training and insights. And at the same time I like to also align with whomever I’m working, and work together so that we’re focused on if the process isn’t working. We can talk about that and fix the process.

If we get to the answer and the conclusion, we can celebrate together. And if that is vexing and takes longer, or is more difficult to find, well then we can pivot together. Or they can separate from this, and they can move on to other paradigms or other people to work with, and that’s fine too.

So there’s less pressure, in a certain sense, on, “I’m going to throw this problem at the doctor and the doctor is going to spit an answer back at me,” because that’s an all-or-nothing kind of proposition. Either it works and you’re happy or, much more likely, it’s not exactly right and somehow there’s been a failure.

(52:16) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Would you say you need the patient to take some responsibility? The example you just gave is basically where they are saying alright, I don’t have responsibilities, just give me the fix.

[Paul Abramson]: Well, the more responsibly the patient takes, the better. An extreme example is the patient who does not consult a doctor and just does the [unclear 52:31] on their own. And those people exist. There are many of them. They achieve great results and I never meet them, except at Quantified Self.

If you are doing it on your own successfully, then you never meet me as a patient. However, in many cases people get frustrated, or they need new ideas, they need new paradigms, they want to explore with someone who can meet them at their level and have a very, very quick and useful conversation, and then help them to implement.

And I have the tools of pharmacology and laboratory testing and other testing, and access to specialists. You know, I have all the medical tools at my disposal, if they are appropriate.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And the experience. It’s all good doing an n=1 experiment, but if someone has been overseeing hundreds of experiments they learn things from those experiments in themselves, which could be relevant to you case.

[Paul Abramson]: I think so, except I’m continuously amazed at how individual people are. Even in problems that are relatively, I would say, conserved among individuals, like alcohol and the human brain. It’s really not that, there are only a few different ways that that tends to manifest on an obvious level, how people relate to alcohol, and yet their individual circumstances and details are unique, which makes every approach unique.

And so I say, I have gotten some insights from the self-tracking that apply to others. I think it is hard to take measurable insights and extract it in a medical, steady kind of way. And that’s why I continue to not be afraid of computers taking over my job, because ultimately I think there is a combination of metrics and data, and also presence and attention and experience that work together, and that’s why I think the medical profession has hope.

If you can provide presence, and attention, and experience, and knowledge, and then integrate data into that, you can actually be helpful to someone more frequently. And so that’s why I do what I do.

(54:41) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Paul, I also just wanted to find out a little bit about you, and what you do with yourself when it comes to the Quantified Self, or any kind of tracking of metrics or biomarkers. Is there anything that you track for yourself on a routine basis, or you’ve explored, potentially?

[Paul Abramson]: Right now I’m tracking sleep, mostly just sleep duration. I think I’ve gotten the insights about sleep quality from various previous tracking endeavors. More as a behavioral thing to try to get myself to lie down more, which is particularly vexing for me.

And I’m tracking weight and body composition as I do different dietary experiments. Partly for my own health, and partly just to experiment with different dietary approaches. And, I’ve done many experiments when I have had problems that I wanted to fix, or wanted to understand better.

And some of them haven’t been fixable, but I understood them better and that helped me to deal with them. Headaches, and other things that I’ve talked about in the past. So I would say I use my baseline as I’m not doing lots, and lots of time intensive of self-tracking, because I don’t have the time involved.

The investment of time and resources is more than my available disposable resources, and the problems aren’t serious enough to warrant giving up other things. But when something important comes up, I start to implement more tracking.

(56:03) [Damien Blenkinsopp]: Right, right. So, in terms of the sleep quality you mentioned, what do you use to track that? Because I know sleep is a bit of a tricky area to track. Are you using MyMe today to track your hours, or what are you doing for that?

[Paul Abramson]: It all started with the Zeo – rest in peace – which allowed you to get some, albeit not 100 percent accurate, EEG data out of your sleep and sleep stage, and it was very nice. I didn’t mind wearing a headband every night, which some people found objectionable.

Now there are better tools, some of which I’ve experimented with, from Withings and ResMed and Beddit, where they’re less invasive tools to track your sleep that don’t require a headband. I think right now I’m using just an app on the phone that lays on the bed and has an alarm built into it and tracks start and end time of sleep.

It also records sounds, so if you snore it will give you all the snippets of snoring through the night. It’s just a simple app on the Iphone. I think I use the simplest tool for whatever I’m actually interested in. So right now I just set my alarm, and when it wakes me up I know how much time I was asleep.

And I have some subjective notes I take about that, like how was my sleep. And I’ve found that those notes correlate pretty well with reality when I’ve used actual medical sleep tracking devices that you use for sleep studies on myself in the past.

I’ve found that Zeo correlated well enough that I could actually use that data. And now I don’t actually need the Zeo even to know what’s going on with my sleep, because I know what it feels like.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: I actually do the same as you, I just track the number of hours I sleep with a little timer on my Iphone. I just click it when I go to sleep, and I click it when I get back up.

Out of interest, how many hours do you sleep? What do you consider good or bad?

[Paul Abramson]: My personal ideal is 8 hours, almost exactly. 7.9 to 8.1, somewhere in there. And when I get that much…

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: You feel better?

[Paul Abramson]: Everything improves.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s good.

[Paul Abramson]: Both subjective and objective.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: And have you got any little tools that have got you there? Because I’m always at seven. I’m always trying to get to eight but it’s hard.

[Paul Abramson]: Right. Well my particular app tracks over the last 14 days what my cumulative sleep deficit is compared to eight hours.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That sounds scary.

[Paul Abramson]: It is. And so when I get up above 10 to 15 hours of sleep debt in two weeks, other people don’t behave as well. I mean, that’s my observation. I’ve found that I’m not performing as well, and it manifests as the external world not cooperating.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: That’s interesting. That’s good, then it goes back to you saying not everything is about food, and sometimes it’s the other psychological or emotional things, which are probably harder to identify.

(58:55) What would be your number one recommendation to someone who is trying to use data to make better decisions to improve their health, performance, or longevity, or any aspect of themselves?

[Paul Abramson]: I would define a relatively simple goal that actually really matters to you. Either it’s something terrible that you want to fix, or it’s something really juicy and rewarding that you want to achieve, and then set up as simple a self-tracking experiment as you can. Most people cannot pull off complex self-tracking unless they have diagnosable obsessive-compulsive disorder, or some spectrum of that.

So you have to just start with simple things that are as easy to track as possible, and some goal that’s really motivating, so you have the best chance of actually doing it, and seeing if this modality, if this type of thing, works for you. Some people find it intolerable, some people find it absolutely fascinating and motivating. And you can always add complexity later.

And then if you try, and it’s a great modality for you but you can’t pull it off, you need more accountability or more insight or more help designing experiments, that’s when you involve a coach all the way up through a medical doctor who’s interested in this kind of thing.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, great. Thank you for that great recommendation. Totally agree with it.

(60:00) So what would be the best ways for people to connect with you? Is it Facebook or your website, or where do people usually [reach you]? Are you active anywhere, or how else would people try to connect with you?

[Paul Abramson]: I’m variably active on Twitter, at PaulAbramsonMD. We do have a Facebook page and Google+ page. I’m easily findable on the internet. I usually do respond to social media.

If people want to become patients at my documedical group, my practice in downtown San Francisco, they can just call us up and we can describe how it works and how people can come in. I usually don’t work as patients with people that I have not met and examined, for personal and professional reasons.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Yeah, isn’t that a legal requirement in California?

[Paul Abramson]: It’s subjective. And yet I find that my intuition and my ability to be helpful to people improves dramatically if I have sat in the room, if I have had sometime in a room with them, and if I have laid my hands on them and examined them. Things work out much better.

I have tried both ways, and so I’ve just decided that I’m going to meet with people who can meet with me here in San Francisco. And that does restrict my ability to work with some people.

Otherwise, I can have theoretical conversations with people. My time is pretty darn limited in terms of how much banter I can do on social media, but I do my best to be available.

(change)[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Excellent. Alright, so we’ll put all of those in the show notes, and your website of course. Is there anywhere else you would suggest people look to learn about Quantified Medicine, for want of a better term. Are there any resources you’ve come across that you found helpful, and might be helpful to people?

[Paul Abramson]: Well the Quantified Self movement – it’s really more of a movement than an enterprise – but it holds meet ups all over the world, in many cities, and it also has an annual conference, or semi-annual I think, in the Bay Area. And frequently there’s the one in Europe.

So that’s a wonderful community to connect to where there’s an inner sanction of people of all different persuasions. And so you can always find someone who wants to do something similar to you in that community, because it’s a very heterogeneous community.

As far as others, there are so many different things going on in medicine around self-tracking. I think the reason Quantified Self appealed to me is that it does not have a strong vested financial motivation or conflicts of interest. And so you can go there and everybody is pretty much there just to be there. There are some people tying to sell things, but they stick out pretty obviously.

And it’s very egalitarian and anybody can speak. So I like that, whereas everything else you have to filter through the business model perspective. If you can do that, especially here in the Bay Area and in Western Europe there’s a lot of enterprise going on around this.

So it’s more about finding things that speak to you. I don’t have any particular points of focus.

[Damien Blenkinsopp]: Great, thanks. Well Paul, thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. It was a great discussion.

[Paul Abramson]: You’re very welcome, it’s been great to be here.

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