Why Estonia’s ex-PM wants you to sell your healthcare data

By Medha Basu

New blockchain-based marketplace lets people sell fitness information to insurers.

Estonia’s former Prime Minister, Taavi Rõivas, has backed a new health app that lets users sell their fitness data in return for financial rewards.

Users of the Lympo app can sell their anonymised data to companies, including insurers, health and fitness businesses, and health food companies. In exchange, they currently get tokens to spend on premium features and discounts on the app, and the company envisages a blockchain-based marketplace for insurers and others to purchase the data in return for discounts.

“If it is anonymised and monetised at the same time, there is really no downturn,” said Rõivas who joined the Lithuanian startup as the Chairman of its supervisory board in August. “Currently, most people that use wearables just give their data away for free. Health data is immensely valuable for both sports and health industries to create better products and cure respectively.”

The app does not store health-related personal data on the blockchain, so that users have control and can delete it any time as required by European Union regulations. Instead, blockchain is used to make payment transactions and record permissions given by users for companies to access their data.

This approach fits with the broader data principles used by the Estonian Government, Rõivas added. “It is a general rule in all Estonian public databases that the citizen himself should be in charge. This helps to create trust in the system and it works really well in many cases, including the nationwide health record.”

This month, Lympo launched in the US in partnership with American entrepreneur and investor Mark Cuban and basketball team Dallas Mavericks, which is owned by Cuban.

The app and its approach is part of a broader move in the insurance industry to encourage people to share data in exchange for personalised premiums. A life insurance company owned by Canadian firm Manulife has said that it will now only sell policies that are tied to people’s health data from their fitness trackers and elsewhere, Reuters reported.

Data analytics and artificial intelligence are “changing the face of traditional insurance”, Kalai Natarajan, head of Strategic Engagements at Prudential Singapore told the Business Times. The company is “investing in preventative healthcare because we see a need to move away from the traditional role of underwriting a life, collecting a premium and paying for treatment when the person falls sick”.

The company invested S$70 million in tech for its Singapore business last year and has launched an AI-powered health and wellness platform in Singapore, including four tech apps assess their health and find doctors nearby, the Business Times reported.

The Singapore Government’s HealthHub app also encourages people to share their health and fitness data in exchange for shopping rewards, so as to keep the population fit and healthy.