Google Files Patent for “Needle-Free” Glucose Testing Technology
Does it come with risk?
Smartwatches collect data about users’ heart rates and exercise and stress levels; now Google wants to collect users’ blood to monitor their blood glucose.
The multinational technology company has filed a patent for a “needle-free blood draw” system that would be built into smartwatches, or even handheld devices like smartphones.
The system works like this, according to the filing: the machine sends an “abrupt surge” of gas into a barrel housing a “micro-particle” that does indeed puncture the skin and draws a miniscule amount of blood. The droplet is then sucked up into a negative pressure barrel. Theoretically, the entire process would be quicker, easier, and less painful than even the most modern glucose meter used by diabetics.
In fact, Google believes the invention might one day replace glucose meters entirely.
The patent notes that the smallest possible puncture is desirable to cause as minimal pain as possible, but very small-diameter needles aren’t preferable because they can fail to pierce the skin or may snap because they’re not strong enough. The “micro-particle” solves this problem, the filing states.
Health data, gathered in the form of wearable gadgets like heart rate monitors and activity trackers, is the future for Google, Apple, and other technology companies that are practically tripping over each other to be the one to release the next big thing.
For example, late last year, Google launched Google Fit to compete with Apple’s HealthKit. Both applications put the user’s health information, including blood pressure, temperature, and pulse from multiple devices and applications into one place.
Google is working on “smart” contact lenses that are connected to mobile devices for the purpose of helping diabetics monitor their blood sugar, as well as another type of lens to treat far-sightedness.
The company signed a deal with Novartis at the end of last year to produce the glucose-monitoring lenses for diabetics and the lenses to treat far-sightedness. Google has hinted that the technology could also be used for other purposes, and recently patented a lens with a built-in camera.
As far as how the glucose-monitoring lenses will work, they will measure tear fluid in the eye and deliver information about glucose levels in the body wirelessly via a mobile device.
While all of this sounds convenient and useful, health data applications are fraught with danger and often just plain don’t work.
A September 2014 Medical News Today article reported that nearly 20% of smartphone users have 1 or more apps on their device which helps them track or manage their health. Their popularity has exploded, but many of them give inaccurate information that could harm patient health.
One example is a 2013 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center study that found that questioned the accuracy of 4 health apps that purported to detect skin cancer. The researchers found that even the most accurate of the apps that used algorithms missed 18 out of 60 lesions diagnosed as melanoma and deemed them low-risk for cancer. (It’s important to note, however, that these particular apps don’t collect physical evidence or use invasive measures to gather information.)
Not only are users’ health at risk, so is their privacy. Health and wellness apps share the large amount of data they collect with third parties, including advertising entities, analytics companies, social networks, and hosted solutions.
Many people don’t realize that health apps are not regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and they aren’t covered by HIPAA. These third parties can easily gain access to users’ names, addresses, emails and phone numbers. That makes it easy for anyone to find out users’ personal information online.
Additionally, the FDA decided in February that it would not actively regulate health and wellness apps, as well as numerous medical-related apps.
Let’s hope Google’s new technologies won’t require access to applications that share individuals’ personal information.
 Daily Mail
Julie Fidler has written hundreds of articles on key world topics such as health, drugs, and law. She is also the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. Oh, and she loves to take care of two ridiculously- spoiled cats in her free time.