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This guest post by SPM member Scott Strange originally appeared on his blog, Strangely Diabetic. Scott will host this week’s #s4pm Tweetchat on Wednesday, April 11 at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific (username @Strangely_t1) on #diabetes.

It seems that every day we read a new announcement about some new health app or service that will empower you.

What a load of crap.

The only “thing” that can empower you is you.

You have to do all the work, accept all the responsibility, manage all the other participants (doctors, insurance companies, caregivers, etc.) in your health care arena. I use the word arena because sometimes I spend more time managing all those others than I do managing my own condition. To tell the rather absurd truth, I’d really, really like to be in a cage fight with them all sometimes. You could recognize me because I’d be the guy with the chainsaw.

Do you know what a pencil, a hammer, a telephone, a car key and all these apps, social networking sites, devices, and services have in common?

They are all tools.

Simply tools, which by definition help us perform some task with, hopefully, less effort. But of course you need to use the right tool for the right task. I mean trying to use a hammer to drive a screw into a piece of wood is just going to get you hurt.

If people don’t benefit in some tangible way from using these apps or services, then they won’t be used. It needs to be rewarding. One of the most difficult things about managing a chronic condition such as diabetes and many others, is that if you do it right nothing will happen.

Nothing will happen.

That’s a fantastic motivation to keep doing things isn’t it? It might be, however it provides you with exactly zero feedback (positive or negative) which makes staying motivated extremely difficult. In the era before social media, we relied on our doctors to help with motivation. Hopefully, they encouraged you and didn’t just try to scare you into compliance.

This is where power of social media and social apps come to light. You can get immediate feedback. Be it from someone online going “Attaboy” to getting a few points or perhaps a new badge (WOOT!), these all provide an immediate reward and that makes behaviors easier to change and then to maintain.

Since these new pieces of software and hardware are regarded as computer technology instead of “people technology,” they are often sold using the same sales process that I have heard for my 25 years in IT. “This will handle the problem and make it all better”.

Well, that is a half-truth at best. People will handle the problem. The real question is “Will this technology make my life easier on a day to day basis and how will it work for me?” Often people buying get sucked into the “it’s a fantastic silver bullet” spiel and once it is deployed … well, lets just say things unexpected can happen.

Remember, people handle problems. People solve problems.

Apps, devices, systems make handling problems easier (hopefully!).

You are a person. Given the right tools, you can empower yourself.

But you have to do it.

** I’m going to put a slight caveat in here. Not everyone is going to need or want to be an empowered patient. It takes a lot of work, honestly, so it is up to every individual to decide what is proper for them in their own situation. It is not proper for anyone to say you MUST do something in this regard, it is an extremely personal decision.


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