July 24, 2019

23andMe already has millions of people's DNA. Now it wants their health data too.

Daily Briefing

    23andMe is piloting an effort to collect more health data from its customers, including lab results, prescription information, and medical history, CNBC reports.

    What providers need to know about genetic testing and other new clinical innovations

    23andMe to request more medical data from consumers

    To date, 23andMe has sold about 10 million copies of its genetic testing kits, and it has access to all of its users' genetic information as well as the health information it collects from customer surveys.

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    But now, the DNA-testing company wants to access users' health data by connecting to outside medical providers using Human API, a third-party medical data network.

    23andMe said the program is in the beta stage and will be rolled out gradually to all of its testing kit users. The company did not offer further details. The product could change depending on how it's received by users during the pilot, CNBC reports.

    What 23andMe might do with the data

    According to 23andMe, the new service is an effective way for users to access health data that might be scattered across multiple systems and get new insights about their health.

    Gaining access to users' health data, like medications and health habits, would allow 23andMe to give consumers an estimate of their risk for "complex, chronic ailments," including diabetes, CNBC reports.

    "It's a clever move," said Ruby Gadelrab, former 23andMe VP. "For consumers, health data is fragmented and this is a step towards helping them aggregate more of it."

    For the company, the new data, paired with users' genetic information, could also help further its research efforts, Farr reports. Although 23andMe is "best known" for its genetic testing kit, Farr writes, the company brings in much of its money from research collaborations with drugmakers. In the future, 23andMe hopes to produce new drug treatments with information from its database.

    In the long run, data security could be the biggest concern, according to Business Insider.

    But, if 23andMe ensures patient data will remain private, the company could build a collection of shared medical data that would be valuable to providers, who would then have a complete overview of patients' health history. The shared medical data set could also prove helpful to health firms, which rely on data to test AI-assisted diagnostics, according to Business Insider (Farr, CNBC, 7/11; Hendrickson, Business Insider, 7/15; Rubin/Marcus, Wall Street Journal, 7/22).

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