Microsoft Eyes Guidelines for Consumer Health Wearables


By Eric Wicklund

Microsoft is joining the effort to create guidelines for developers of wearables and mHealth apps.

The company has joined forces with the University of California, San Diego and the Vitality Institute to create“responsibility guidelines” that target six important issues in the use of personalized health technology. The guidelines are designed to not only help developers and healthcare providers in promoting everything from apps to smartwatches to interactive pill bottles, but to help consumers know which technology to trust.

“Innovative personal health technology products are producing completely new categories of data and creating completely new challenges for developers, clinicians and users,” Dennis Schmuland, MD, Microsoft’s chief health strategy officer for the U.S. Health and Life Sciences division and an author of the guidelines, said in a July 16 press release. “Now, as we create guidelines to help the legal, ethical and societal considerations catch up to the innovation, I encourage my colleagues to review the guidelines and share their input.”

The six points addressed in the guidelines are:

  1. The privacy of a user’s health data;
  2. Defining who owns that data;
  3. Guidelines for interpreting that data;
  4. Integrating product design with validated scientific evidence;
  5. Integrating evidence-based methods to health behavior improvement; and
  6. Making the technology available to underserved populations.

“These responsibility guidelines provide a framework for protecting consumers and treating them fairly and ethically,” said Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, a professor and researcher at UCSD and author of the guidelines, in the press release. He said the guidelines will be available online for public comment through October 15, after which they’ll be finalized and shared with industry leaders.

“I urge anyone with an interest in the future of health technology to review the guidelines and comment.  This includes consumers who use wearables, smartwatches and health apps, along with leaders of the companies that develop, market and distribute these products,” Derek Yach, executive director of the Vitality Institute and senior vice president of the Vitality Group, added in the release. “Personalized health technology has great potential to benefit the health of countless individuals and it is critical that we proactively address these legal, social and ethical challenges so that potential benefit is not hindered.”


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