Welcome, lab rats of the future.
Google wants 10,000 of you in the United States to be their test dummies for four years so they can understand a lot more about health and the human body. And by Google, we mean Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which owns Verily, the company conducting this study. Stay with us now.
Project Baseline, as the mission has been dubbed, “is the quest to collect comprehensive health data and use it as a map and compass, pointing the way to disease prevention.” As signing up to be a test dummy goes, this seems like one of the better causes.
Doing so, though, is not a matter of spending an afternoon in a lab. This will change your life for nearly half a decade. Here are some of the things you’ll need to do:
1. Sign up for extra doctor appointments
Signing up to have your health mapped will require going to a “Baseline study site” once a year for one to two days of tests. These tests, the project’s website is careful to say, don’t mean you can skip your physical.
During these appointments, you will have to take an eye exam and a chest x-ray, fill out a bunch of questionnaires, and provide the folks at Verily with globs of your saliva, blood (for liquid biopsies), and “other samples.” They mean poop. And … tears?
2. Attend even more doctor appointments
If you get married, get a new job, a loved one dies, or you undergo another “significant life event,” Verily might ask you to visit them for another appointment to see how that affects your health.
Also, anyone with “health profiles that we are especially interested in” will be asked to show up for three extra visits each year. No word on whether being especially interesting is good or bad.
3. Wear a smart watch
You’ll wear a smart watch that’s not quite a smart watch. This “investigational” (meaning not FDA-cleared) watch sends data to Verily about your heart rate and such without giving you tips on how to improve it. It’s not waterproof, though, so don’t wear it while jumping off a diving board.
4. Sleep with a monitor
When you travel, make sure to bring the device that will now monitor your sleep patterns. It’s a ring-like device that you place under your mattress (or whatever you sleep on), and that’s it. Or, that’s all Verily says about it, so we’re not exactly sure what it tracks.
5. Add a new app for your phone
The Baseline app will nag you just like all your other apps, except this one will ask you to “answer a few questions about your mood” and such, as a supplement to the other data Verily will collect.
6. Give your health records to Verily
In order to get a complete picture of your health, Verily will need access to your records, and you’ll have to let them know about any changes to prescriptions you already take, as well as any new ones that come about.
The whole process requires providing a lot of your most private information to Google and (probably) pharmaceutical companies who want to see the anonymized data, which — given Google makes much of its sweet, sweet cash by selling data — is not something to take lightly. Participants do indeed have to sign a form to allow for the selling of that anonymized data.
So, if all that’s cool with you, then by all means go ahead.
So, if all that’s cool with you, then by all means go ahead. Verily’s looking for people of “diverse ages, ethnicities, geographic locations, health histories, and other demographic and medical information,” so it seems that just about everyone in the U.S. is eligible.
But it’s unclear just how much you should expect in return. Verily’s consent form says that, if selected, “the Onsite Consent will provide information on compensation for participation in the Baseline study.”
That compensation is tied to the participant’s “involvement,” according to an email we got from a Google representative, and all that will be figured out after you’ve been accepted. Verily also says participants will get access to “certain lab results and data from health tests, surveys, and diaries,” though you shouldn’t expect the company to interpret those results for you.
Alright then, folks. The decision is in your hands.