Over the past year, many tech heavyweights have begun moving into the mHealth sector, with Apple ($AAPL) and Google ($GOOG) both unveiling fitness-focused updates to their mobile platforms. Developers got an early look at Google's offering this week, with the search giant releasing a preview version of its APIs for health app developers.
The APIs fall into three categories: sensors, recording and history. Collectively, the APIs and Google's pushing of its Fit platform could drive a surge in the number of people collecting personal health data, as well as an increase in the breadth of information they capture. In a blog post to unveil the APIs, Google gave the example of a running app that receives updates from a heart monitor every 5 seconds and logs the data.
Such passive data collection tools could allow clinical trials to gather more information on patients between site visits, while also freeing participants from the need to actively track their health. To date, clinical trials have largely relied on dedicated devices to capture patient data, instead of using participants' own phones, but some want to see this change. The need to ensure the reliability and security of the data are two potential obstacles to the shift.
The FDA is another possible barrier, although a June addition to the type of apps for which it will exercise enforcement discretion could address part of the problem. The FDA will exercise discretion for: "Mobile apps that allows a user to collect, log, track and trend data such as blood glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, weight or other data from a device to eventually share with a healthcare provider, or upload it to an online (cloud) database, personal or electronic health record."