When John Silberlicht goes walking, he is never alone. As he tramps around rural Connecticut, following doctor’s advice to take exercise after undergoing cardiac surgery for the fourth time in January, he wears a Fitbit that registers every step he takes and every beat of his reinvigorated heart. The information is not simply a source of personal reassurance that his recovery is on track; it is also a trove for medical researchers. Alongside the data from the wearable on his wrist, his medical and pharmacy records, and his responses to texted or e-mailed queries about his wellbeing, are collected on his behalf and stored securely in his account in the cloud. With his permission, a group of clinicians is now using the information to evaluate how to improve postoperative treatment for others. Silberlicht, who has been in and out of the operating room since he was a toddler, explained: “As [my doctor] put it, I’m a unique individual. With all the previous heart surgeries I’ve had, I’m ...

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