Editorial: Google health

Jun 30 2014, 02:04 IST
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SummaryWith Fit, Google could use users’ medical data for furthering research

Google is clearly not satisfied with being the world’s biggest brand, having overtaken Apple, and also the biggest search engine; it now wants to be the world’s biggest storehouse of individual health data. The first step in that process is the launch of Google Fit, a new fitness platform. Google Fit aims to unify data it collects from everyone who uses the service to track their health and fitness, and, by doing so, hopes to become the largest warehouse of consumer health data in the world. While it will initially launch Google Fit as a simple way to manage individual fitness goals, it actually opens the door to a massive health data store. The ultimate aim is altruistic, not commercial. Google’s co-founder Larry Page said at this year’s TED conference that: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone’s medical records were available anonymously to research doctors? And when someone accesses your medical record, a research doctor, they could see, you could see which doctor accessed it and why, and you could maybe learn about what conditions you have. I think if we just did that, we’d save 100,000 lives this year.”

Millions of lives have been lost because of insufficient data regarding drugs that were found to have fatal side effects. Imagine the kind of information and data already available, matched with Google Fit’s global data, and what it could do for medical studies or research! Google is in an amazing position to collect such data on a global scale in very quick time. All Google users will have access to Google Fit, and offer details about their health and any diseases they suffer from. This information will be available to researchers and doctors. There may be privacy issues involved, but at its heart, quite literally, is the chance to save millions of lives, including your own.

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