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Google's new Android app lets you contribute to health research

Google is borrowing from Apple's approach to medical studies.

Published onDecember 9, 2020

google health studies android research app
  • Google has released a Health Studies app that lets Android users participate in medical research.
  • The first study focuses on respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu.

You no longer need to buy an iPhone if you want an easy way to contribute to medical research. Google has released a Health Studies app for Android that lets you participate in research projects. Volunteer for a study and data you send from your phone can provide insight into conditions and diseases.

The first study is a team-up with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School to improve understanding of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and the flu. US adults can self-report their symptoms, preventative measures, and test results to help researchers learn how mobility and other factors play into viral spread. You’ll get to review the collective findings.

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And yes, privacy plays an important role. Google said Health Studies gives you control over the research data you send and transparency over both what’s sent and where it’s going. The respiratory study relies on federated learning and analytics that provides aggregated data based on encrypted updates from participants.

Health Studies data will only be used for research purpose, Google said, and won’t be sold or used for ads.

Google is slightly late with its Health Studies app — Apple released a Research app in November 2019 after cooperating on previous projects. Not that there are many complaints. Android is the world’s largest mobile platform, and enlisting even a small fraction of those users for studies could accelerate medical progress. This could be particularly helpful in Europe and other places where Google’s platform dominates.

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