Osborne Clarke law firm slams EU on tech innovation

Technology and life sciences law firm Osborne Clarke has today called for action from EU regulators to re-think the impact of its forthcoming European General Data Protection Regulation on health data generated by wearable devices and apps.

As it stands, the EU's position will stifle innovation and cost national health providers tens of billions of Euros.

The call comes after the company's new study found a growing majority of people are happy for data such as heart rate, body temperature and sleep patterns to be used in medication recommendations and virtual consultations.

Set to come into law in 2018, the Regulation governs how organisations in Europe manage sensitive data. 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.

Osborne Clarke today calls for greater clarity after its new research questioned over 4,000 people from around Europe on their views on the topic. It found 55 per cent of people would be happy for things such as heart rate, sleep patterns, exercise regimes and other information about their bodies to be used to recommend medication.

In addition, 62 per cent said they would like to be actively alerted if the data predicted a serious health issue.

The study also showed that future generations are particularly open to the idea of data-based healthcare. When questioned, 68 per cent of 18-24 year olds said they would be happy to be alerted to health issues, with 62 per cent were also happy to be recommended medication from their wearable or health app.

The research also found nearly 40 per cent of people would prefer a virtual consultation based on such data, instead of having to attend a GP surgery. This rises sharply again in younger generations, with over half preferring to see their doctor over the Internet.

IDC estimates that 173.4m wearable devices will be shipped by 2019, with the largest proportion of market share split between Apple Watch and Google’s Android.

App stores are also now also full of apps that track everything from exercise regimes, to diet and even muscle mass.