Google to access health data at the source

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

Back in 2017, Google together with the Duke University School of Medicine, Stanford Medicine and the American Heart Association, launched the Project Baseline Health Study with the motto, “We’ve mapped the world, now let’s map human health”. Now lead by Verily, a Google sister company founded in 2015 under the Alphabet umbrella, the project aims to leverage Google’s targeted advertising to enrol on a large scale a more diverse population willing to give-away its health metrics for clinical trials.

On its website, the company explains it wants to develop the tools to implement a more patient-centric, technology-enabled approach to research, and increase the number and diversity of clinical research participants. One such tool is the Baseline Platform allowing individuals to easily volunteer and share health data, which Google and its analytics tool could leverage to suggest participation into specific clinical trials for which certain of their health metrics may be prove particularly interesting to explore. Registration is 3-step easy, you can even sign-in with a Google account if you already use one of the company’s services.

Another tool developed for long term clinical trials is the Study Watch, described as an investigational medical device intended for seamless and scalable data collection in clinical studies. The medical-grade wearable leverages specialized sensors and robust cloud infrastructure to capture and analyze physiological and environmental data.

“It is designed to appeal to a broad range of users for long-term wear”, one can read on Verily’s Study Watch project page. The wirelessly collected data is to be processed in the cloud using the company’s back-end algorithms and machine learning tools.

The large scale enrolments could help research partners such as biopharmaceutical companies get a more comprehensive view of human health, identifying the many factors that intervene in the transition from being a healthy subject to being diagnosed with a disease, to becoming a patient whose condition ought to be improved through a uniquely-tailored medication set.

Verily presents its vision in a somewhat chilling video, noting that while today’s cars integrate hundreds of sensors to constantly check their condition and assess their safety, humans are still lacking this sort of preventive real-time health monitoring which could help detect diseases as they unfold.

Instead of episodic reactive healthcare only taking place after a disease has been diagnosed, Verily suggests that constant monitoring through medical wearables would allow its partners to trial or suggest the best treatments, on a continuum custom basis, “preventative and proactive healthcare” as one says in the video.

Another interesting quote from the presentation video “We will understand disease, at the individual level, not what makes someone sick, but what makes you sick” suggests that Google and its partners wants this all encompassing health monitoring strategy to reach the masses, or at the very least reach a critical mass that would make it feasible for the analytics engines to make medical recommendations to all the profiled internet users within its reach.

This may be individual medication or suggested treatments diligently pushed by Verily’s newly announced strategic partners, namely Novartis, Otsuka, Pfizer and Sanofi, all biopharmaceutical companies eager to sell more drugs.

The companies, alongside academic research institutions, patient-advocacy groups and health systems, will now leverage Verily’s Baseline Platform to research and increase the number and diversity of clinical research participants.

“They will also explore novel approaches to generating real-world evidence using the Baseline Platform to collect, organize and activate health information from electronic health records, sensors and other digital sources”, says the Verily press release announcing the brand new strategic alliance.

Knowing Google’s all encompassing capability to capture and analyse data and profile consumers throughout their connections to the web, and considering biopharmaceutical companies’ appetite for profit even at the risk of inadvertently creating sanitary scandals, this grand vision of improving everyone’s health feels rather oppressive.

After all, isn’t it a clever marketing tactic to lure consumers (not just volunteers), for the sake of their future health, into becoming captive data-metered patients, orienting them towards a perpetual and lucrative adaptive medication with the promise to prevent or delay the onset of identified diseases? This could be just another monthly subscription, this time to a drug-on-demand service where doses would be set by a machine learning algorithm, definitely trendy.

Verily –

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AI-based smartphone app estimates user’s health risks


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