Last week, CTA spoke to Andrena Logue who explained how the use of wearables could disrupt well-established paradigms within the healthcare space. This week, in the second of a two-part special on mobile health, Henry Kerali sits down with consumer expert, Avi Greengart, Current Analysis, who feels the use of wearables in clinical trials raises many questions over data security.

Clinical Trials Arena: What is your take on the use of wearables in the healthcare space?

Avi Greengart: As far as embracing wearables in the healthcare space is concerned, there are a lot of opportunities to use smartphones and apps in clinical trials that perhaps the healthcare community has yet to take advantage of. We are at a saturation point for smartphones, and yet, it still hasn’t reached its peak in terms of what we can do with them, not by any stretch of the imagination.

CTA: How do you think they could impact the reporting of data? There’s also been a growth in wearable start-ups creating new, innovative technology (outside of sensors and trackers), how do you see the market growing in that sense?

AG: Before we all jump on the ‘let’s all make a custom wearable’ bandwagon, just remember the magnitude of having a connected computer in your pocket at all times across the population – I don’t think we’ve fully taken advantage of that. Apple has started to do that with HealthKit. At this point, we are starting to see the numbers coming out of Apple (and to an extent Google), and there is a much broader participation. If you want to do a longitudinal study, recruiting people can be difficult; getting people to participate once you’ve recruited them can be difficult, but now we’re seeing people in the tens of thousands willing to take part if they think it’s going to help either their health or public health in some way. That’s something in the past you’d pay a lot of money to get a hundred people and now you can pay almost nothing to get ten thousand people onboard if the marketing is done right. So the use of wearables connected to the smartphones we’re already carrying could potentially have a transformational effect on the industry.

CTA: Do you feel there’s an ethical grey area posed by the use of mHealth, wearables, and the like in clinical trials?

AG: It’s a fair concern, and I think one of the ways people are dealing with it now is by being transparent in disclosing privacy terms and conditions upfront. The problem with that is people ignore it. Naturally, we’ve all been conditioned to scroll through and click ‘accept’ because what are your alternatives? I would think that would be something for either government or standards bodies within the medical community to set up guidelines for better disclosures, clearer use of language, or offering options and selling best practices for randomising the data, for encrypting the data, for making sure the data isn’t tied back to an individual. On the flipside, making it highly personable and giving the patient access to the data, so that they own it. But I definitely agree that’s an area that has not been explored systematically as we rush toward embracing these new technologies and better healthcare outcomes.We all say privacy is important, but consumer behaviour suggests that’s a myth.

CTA: A ‘myth’? In what way?

AG: It’s a myth in the sense that we need to bridge our behaviour with our attitudes. And that requires a set of best practices that allow for informed consumer choice, better data security and in some cases better consumer ownership. I tend to lean on the side of the privacy advocates because this is something that involves public health and affects all of us in some way shape or form. If the basic protections aren’t there, the government or a regulatory body will have to step in and ensure some standards are being adhered to. There are legitimate security concerns where an organisation like Google can know an awful lot about a person, and I feel this is a real issue that hasn’t been properly addressed. And that’s not to say the vendors haven’t put any thought into it, but if you’re designing your own app and distributing it, I don’t know if these issues have been worked out in such a way that your average consumer understands the implications and has any real choice.


*Avi Greengart is the Research Director, Consumer Platforms & Devices at Current Analysis