Viewpoint: Donating health data to research could spur innovation, save lives

In the wrong hands, personal health information can facilitate major privacy violations, but the benefits of sharing health data for research purposes far outweigh that risk, according to Oren Frank, co-founder and CEO of digital counseling provider Talkspace.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Mr. Frank asserted that, in fact, sharing health information is absolutely necessary for further innovation. Massive datasets of de-identified data will lead to the development of more accurate artificial intelligence algorithms, which can then improve both diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions.

"It's time to stop and consider how we might reframe and rethink our cultural narrative around privacy, particularly the critical role healthcare data could play in medical innovation," he wrote. "Aggregated healthcare data has the potential to be a public good, part of a collective effort to develop new medical treatments, improve clinical outcomes across medical fields and save lives."

Strict regulations and enforcement policies will need to be put in place to protect this shared data, but once they are, clinical and academic researchers with access to the data will be able to develop life-saving healthcare solutions, according to Mr. Frank.

"Your healthcare data could help people who are, at least in some medical aspects, very similar to you. It might even save their lives," he wrote. "The right thing to do with your data is not to guard it, but to share it."

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