Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Unpatients—why patients should own their medical data

For the benefits of digital medicine to be fully realized, we need not only to find a shared home for personal health data but also to give individuals the right to own them.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Prices vary by article type



Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: The medical data ownership engine.
Figure 2: The timeline for electronic medical data hacks in the United States of over 1 million individuals.


  1. Bachman, R. The United States of Fitness. Wall Street Journal (26 May; accessed 5 July 2015).–20150526.pdf

  2. O'Brien, J. Can big data help you get a good night's sleep? Fortune (29 June 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Topol, E.J. Cell 157, 241–253 (2014).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. Xu, G.J. et al. Science 348, aaa0698 (2015).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. HHMI. Your viral infection history from a single drop of blood (4 June; accessed 7 July 2015).

  6. Cannon, W.B. The Wisdom of the Body (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY, USA, 1932).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Mandl, D.M., Mandel, J.C. & Kohane, I.S. Cell Syst. 1, 8–13 (2015).

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Report to Congress April 2015: Report on Health Information Blocking. (Health IT, 9 April; accessed 7 July 2015).

  9. Fickenscher, K.M. J. Am. Med. Inform. Assoc. 20, 593–594 (2013).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Individual access to medical records: 50 state comparison. Health Information & the Law (24 September 2013; accessed 7 July 2015).

  11. Topol, E.J. The Patient Will See You Now (Basic Books; New York, NY, 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Kish, L. The blockbuster drug of the century: an engaged patient. HL7 Standards. (28 August 2012; accessed 6 July 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  13. Collins, K. A quick guide to the worst corporate hack attacks (18 March; accessed 6 July 2015).

  14. Beck, M. How to take charge of your medical records. Wall Street Journal. (29 June 2015).

  15. Accessed 7 July 2015.

  16. Peck, M.E. The future of the web looks a lot like bitcoin. Spectrum IEEE (1 July; accessed 2 July 2015).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Chu, S. Apple watch release news: survey finds 80 percent of US employees would give health data from wearables to employers. iDigitalTimes (2 February; accessed 7 July 2015).

Download references


Special thanks to J. Robinson, N. DiNiro and D. Maizenberg, members of the UnPatient team, for assistance; US National Institutes of Health grant NIH/NCATS 8 UL1 TR001114 for supporting E.J.T.; M. Miller for preparation; and J. Hightower for assistance with graphics.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eric J Topol.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kish, L., Topol, E. Unpatients—why patients should own their medical data. Nat Biotechnol 33, 921–924 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing: Translational Research

Sign up for the Nature Briefing: Translational Research newsletter — top stories in biotechnology, drug discovery and pharma.

Get what matters in translational research, free to your inbox weekly. Sign up for Nature Briefing: Translational Research