Law firm calls for EU to rethink health data policy

Stethoscope next to keyboard and coffee cup

Technology and life sciences law firm Osborne Clark has called for the EU to scrap plans stopping devices being able to access health data generated by wearables and other health and fitness devices.

The EU's European General Data Protection Regulation would apply the same restrictions given to medical records to data measured by mobile devices, possibly preventing analysis by third party apps, despite technology users saying they're happy for their information to be shared.

"At a time when The Government is looking to find a 10bn budget surplus over the next 5 years, the NHS is predicted to be staring at an annual deficit of 2bn. This research shows that people are open to the idea of data-based healthcare, which could drive such cost savings, whilst also improving quality of life," John Fell, a partner at Osborne Clark said.

"The report also highlights that younger generations have a more liberal attitude to sharing data. 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, for example, will it cut waiting times, or improve people's health?"

The company's study asked 4,000 people around Europe about their health data and how it can be used, with more than half of respondents saying they are happy for their heart rate, sleep patterns, exercise regimes and other information about their bodies to be used for recommendations of treatment. 62 per cent said they would want to be alerted if the data predicted a serious illness.

Fell added that smart use of data is more than just measuring how fast someone is running or their heart rate while exercising. It could potentially result in patients being diagnosed conditions faster and may even save lives.

"A discussion is already taking place amongst manufacturers around self-regulation. However, 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."

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.