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Technology / Hardware

EU urged to rethink regulation on wearable health data

Recent EU regulation could have an impact on how businesses and users can make the best use of harvested health data from wearable devices.

As analysts predict 173.4 million wearable devices to be shipped by 2019, law firm Osborne Clarke (OC) has urged EU regulators to re-think the impact of its forthcoming European General Data Protection Regulation on health data generated by wearable devices and apps.

The regulation, set to come into force in 2018, governs how organisations in Europe manage sensitive data.

In a statement, OC said the definition for what constitutes health data currently encapsulates the type of information collected by wearables such as Fitbit, Apple Watch and health apps, potentially forcing it to be treated in the same strict manner reserved for medical records.

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The company has also conducted research to back up its claims and has found that a growing majority of people (55%) are happy for data such as heart rate, body temperature and sleep patterns to be used in medication recommendations and virtual consultations.

62% of the 4,000 European respondents said they would like to be actively alerted if the data predicted a serious health issue.

Millennials are the age group mostly open to this technology, with 68% having said that they would be happy to be alerted to health issues, while 62% were also happy to be recommended medication from their wearable or health app.

40% of people would prefer a virtual consultation based on such data, instead of having to attend a GP surgery.

Jon Fell, partner at Osborne Clarke, said: "If health providers act on this and embrace such services, they will realise massive savings. To encourage this, tech companies need to think big and demonstrate real world consumer benefits."

"The forthcoming legislation has the potential to nullify the potential of such technology by being overly restrictive."

While discussions are already taking place amongst manufacturers around self-regulation, Fell said that "governmental bodies need to come to the table to add the most important ingredients here: trust and clarity. They need to work with these smart companies to find a path forward."

 
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