Last month, after playing host to a roundtable discussion on encouraging patient trust in sharing healthcare data in London, we blogged about transparency and the road to digital health. Today I’m going to revisit that topic in light of Apple’s recent acquisition of a US healthcare start-up called Gliimpse.
Gliimpse described itself as “healthcare’s platform for patient data. By unlocking patient data silos, we aggregate fragmented data into a patient-owned, longitudinal health profile. Gliimpse is your personal health history, in the palm of your hands.”
Why is this announcement relevant? I think this move could shake up the way we view and manage healthcare data in the long term, and in the short term, influence active conversations being had around patient data, not just in the U.S., but in the U.K. and around the world.
The one goal everyone agreed upon during the conversation at our roundtable was the need for transparency, and the need for patients to know how their data is shared, and why. Gliimpse did a very good job of communicating the benefit to the user in handing over sensitive medical data to the company, “Gliimpse began with a simple idea – everyone should be able to manage their health records, and share them securely with those they trust.”
What is less clear is who (if any entity) will be able to access this type of data in the future, beyond the patient and their healthcare providers. Fortune wrote that “it’s unclear at this point what Apple might have planned for Gliimpse, and that it might soon merge Gliimpse into one of its divisions to work on its healthcare efforts at some point in the future.”
I expect whatever happens, if Apple does roll out a service similar to Gliimpse’s proposition, that there will be a lengthy privacy statement that will provide detail on how the data will be used, and the consumer will need to sign that before using the service.,I imagine that many people will sign up, given the benefits the technology could bring them.
The proposition is certainly enticing. Earlier this year Gliimpse tweeted figures from a HealthMine survey, which revealed that 53 percent of consumers can’t access their electronic health data. The data also showed that 74 percent of consumers say easy electronic access to health data would improve their knowledge of their health and improve communication with their physicians.
The company’s website (which is no longer available, but the text is quoted here) stated “We all leave a bread-crumb trail of our medical ‘stuff’ – our health data and records that we can’t take with us when we leave a doctor’s office or clinic. Providers can’t easily share our records because they’re under HIPAA, the federal regulations regulating how they share patient data. A lack of interoperability makes sharing data nearly impossible. There are no common formats across a myriad of siloed clinical systems.”
“Thankfully, patients and individuals — like you and me — will help solve these two problems U.S. healthcare faces: data-access and data-sharing. How? There are no HIPAA violations when data flows from our health portals to patients. When patients control the data, the problems disappear.” the company states.
The concept of the patients controlling their own data is certainly an interesting one. This would not only circumvent the laws that govern the use of medical records by institutions in the U.S., but could potentially apply to other territories, such as the U.K.
I’m sure we’ve all shared the frustration of seeing our over-worked doctor flick through our paper medical records in a hurry to find our latest test results, or the inability for one hospital to share our data with another. It’s easy to see the benefit of having all personal medical records available at the touch of the button, but only if the system is highly secure and private.
It will be interesting to monitor the uptake of Gliimpse (or whatever the finalised Apple product is called) with U.S. consumers, and how the privacy and security concerns that will undoubtedly accompany the adoption, are addressed. There are many unanswered questions. For example, how will conflicting data be handled? What if a Gliimpse record and an official record differ? How can integrity across records be achieved? With the rise of consumer health apps and devices, will these be integrated as well?
I look forward to seeing the conversation develop.
By Adrian Davis, managing director, EMEA (ISC)2