As a society, we’re continually striving for better healthcare solutions. True innovation in this space can take all forms – products, services, instruction tools, organisational management, changes to legislation etc. One such imminent change in the UK is the switch over to ‘opt-out’ organ donation, effective from May 2020.
By automatically opting-in the majority of the population, the NHS is removing the hurdle of signing-up for those who are willing but unregistered and deciding for those who are indifferent. A clever way to drastically increase the availability of donated organs and a step towards better national health.
This is raising conversations about the perception of organ donation in the UK and our willingness to donate our flesh and blood, both during life and after death. What does organ donation mean to people? What’s the significance? What’s driving and motivating whether people are willing to donate their organs?
It also makes you wonder how people would feel about donating their biomedical data for better collective healthcare. It may be that in our digital world of disease modelling, 3D-printed organs and predictive medicine, donating your digital self could be of equal – if not more – use than donating your physical self.
At Recipe, we monitor the ways people collect, examine and interpret their biological data and we see how the drivers behind these behaviours are shifting and varying. We’re interested in understanding how people are making sense of what their health data can do for them and others, how meanings are evolving alongside the technology enabling these advancements and what the products and services that deliver health data management should look and feel like.
A key signifier for mass health data donation was announced in Apple’s most recent keynote. The ‘Research’ app allows users to contribute data collected by their Apple Watch to three large medical studies run in collaboration with health organisations, investigating hearing health, menstrual health and heart health.
By allowing clinicians to better understand the inter-relationship between everyday symptoms and behaviours, this data can help predict how they contribute to our health in the long-term. As Tim Cook stressed, just by opting-in and going about your daily life, the data collected by your Apple Watch could have a direct impact on the health and wellness of your great-great-grandchildren.
Across other industries, we’re seeing initiatives that invite people to donate their data ‘for the greater good’. From thermostat data driving sustainable living solutions, to social media interactions contributing to better scientific understanding of emotional and mental health. There’s even a Chrome extension that monitors your online activity and donates the proceeds from the data’s sale to your chosen charity.
What other services, apps or products will we be seeing in future years that not only help us manage our own health data better, but give us the opportunity to actively contribute it to the pursuit of better healthcare for everybody?
And how will people approach the idea of donating their biometric or activity data? Too risky to share – potentially damaging if the data is mishandled? Or our moral obligation we all have – a duty to our fellow human beings?