Following in the eHealth footsteps of Apple’s ResearchKit, Google is currently testing its latest ‘Study Kit’ initiative that will enable users to collect and share health information with researchers.
Study Kit is an extension of Google’s Baseline Study, a Google[x] “moonshot” that was announced in July 2014 and involved collecting and analysing diagnostics from people in a limited University-based pilot.
According to TechCrunch, Google is testing the first Study Kit apps to collect data. The iOS and Android apps have been available since March 2015, while the Chrome extension is a new addition. Study Kit is currently only open to a limited number of registered participants in the Baseline pilot, but Google is expected to widen its study to include more participants to harness more data later this year.
“We are in the early stages of designing the Baseline Study and are exploring ways to make it easy for participants to share their health information and habits with researchers on a routine basis,” said a Google spokesperson. “An app is one route we’re considering and some of our pilot participants are testing this early version.”
Google’s aim is to identify a baseline of “healthy”, involving not just easily seen diagnostics like heart rate and weight but also more granular DNA sequencing. Such information could be used to notice how and when individuals start to deviate from “healthy” to actively respond to potential problems.
“It may sound counter-intuitive, but by studying health, we might someday be better able to understand disease,” said Dr Andrew Conrad of Google[x], who heads up Baseline Study, during the launch last year. “This research could give us clues about how the human body stays healthy or becomes sick, which could in turn unlock insights into how diseases could be better detected or treated.”
Data for the project was gathered through blood and urine samples from participants. The apps are essentially the second wave for how Baseline collects data.
For a third wave, an article in the WSJ notes that the long-term plan is to use wearable connected devices to provide data to Baseline, such as the smart contact lenses that can monitor and transmit the user’s glucose levels.
“This research is intended as a contribution to science; it’s not intended to generate a new product at Google,” the company said in a previous statement. “That said, a study like this could unlock lots of ideas for future projects, not just at Google but across the health and technology industries. That’s why we plan to make the study and its underlying results available for qualified researchers in health to use for their own medical efforts.”