MIT Embedded Health Project

Technologies and applications
for longitudinal home health assessment and intervention

A project of House_n, a research group at the MIT Department of Architecture and Media Lab, in collaboration with the Digital Health Group, Intel Corporation.

To Track or Not to Track: User Reaction to Concepts in Longitudinal Health Monitoring

Jennifer S. Beaudin1, Stephen S. Intille1, and Margaret E. Morris2

1 House_n, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
One Cambridge Center, 4FL,
Cambridge, MA 02142 USA
{jbeaudin, intille} (at)

2 Digital Health Group, Intel Corporation
20270 NW AmberGlen Court; AG1-102
Beaverton, OR 97006 USA
Margaret.Morris (at)

Journal of Internet Medical Research, December 2006


Background: Advances in ubiquitous computing, smart homes, and sensor technologies enable novel, longitudinal health monitoring applications in the home. Many home monitoring technologies have been proposed to detect health crises, support aging-in-place, and improve medical care. Health professionals and potential end users in the lay public, however, sometimes question whether home health monitoring is justified given the cost and potential invasion of privacy.

Objective: The aim of the study was to elicit specific feedback from health professionals and laypeople about how they might use longitudinal health monitoring data for proactive health and well-being.

Method: Interviews were conducted with 8 health professionals and 26 laypeople. Participants were asked to evaluate mock data visualization displays that could be generated by novel home monitoring systems. The mock displays were used to elicit reactions to longitudinal monitoring in the home setting as well as what behaviors, events, and physiological indicators people were interested in tracking.

Results: Based on the qualitative data provided by the interviews, lists of benefits of and concerns about health tracking from the perspectives of the practitioners and laypeople were compiled. Variables of particular interest to the interviewees, as well as their specific ideas for applications of collected data, were documented.

Conclusions: Based upon these interviews, we recommend that ubiquitous “monitoring” systems may be more readily adopted if they are developed as tools for personalized, longitudinal self-investigation that help end users learn about the conditions and variables that impact their social, cognitive, and physical health.

Please cite as:

Beaudin JS, Intille SS, Morris ME
To Track or Not to Track: User Reactions to Concepts in Longitudinal Health Monitoring
J Med Internet Res 2006;8(4):e29
< URL: >

Study materials and data

  1. Examples of longitudinal data collection concepts,
    tracking displays
    (HTML and Flash, 430 Kb)

  2. Interview sorting exercise (HTML)

  3. Identity-masked interview transcripts (PDF, 568Kb)

  4. Sorting results (PDF)