Google makes another grab for health data

Google makes another grab for health data

When patients input personal health information into fitness apps on their smartphones, few give much thought to what happens to that data. Unlike electronic medical records, data in fitness apps is less stringently regulated and has fewer standards for data formats and system interoperability.

With Google's newest venture into the mobile health data sector, that may all change. Forbes magazine reported that Google will unveil Google Fit, an aggregator for personal fitness information stored in smartphone apps, wearable devices and other technology, at a conference on June 25. Google Fit will try to become the hub of patient-provided health information, though some experts are wary about how such a large company will change data practices in the years to come.

Google gears up
Google Fit is not the company's first attempt at monetizing personal health data. InformationWeek explained that, in 2008, the organization launched Google Health, a storage option patients and physicians could use to store common files related to health management.

However, the modern medical industry boasts smartphones that link up to remote data constantly, and this is where Google Fit is aimed. The program would compile and hold all the information that consumers submit to fitness apps, vital signs taken by wearable devices and the data from any other open-source technology. 

Derek Newell, chief executive officer of digital health care platform Jiff, told Forbes that Fit can succeed where Health failed because consumers typically have little interest in giving their information away. With fitness apps, though, people now have incentives to supply as much about themselves as they can.

Changing data practices
Google's new push may also signify a coming change for data regulation in the smartphone sphere. Mike Mytych, principal at Wisconsin-based Health Information Consulting, told Health Data Management that services like Google Fit may force the industry to update.

"I do believe that we will see the evolution of the personal health record so that consumers [and] patients along with their families are empowered to have copies of those records, apps for wellness and health, along with plans that are in place for medications, future care and other considerations," Mytych told the news source.

Mytych explained that if Fit can prove itself a viable service not threatened by data security issues, Google's sheer size may prompt regulatory agencies to publish clearer guidelines on data transmission, storage and usage. 


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