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A Call for Greater Transparency in Digital Health

The Digital Health Survey 2019 revealed that UK citizens are embracing digital health, but want more control over their data.

By DONNA KEAN

06 December 2018

Attitudes toward digital health are changing. As smartphones and wearable technology have become an accessible part of our daily lives, many now use these devices to monitor their fitness and health. We wanted to discover just how popular this technology is through our second annual Digital Health Survey and unveil how opinions have changed over the last twelve months.

The key themes

We surveyed over 500 adults in the UK to understand the consensus toward digital health. The ten questions asked covered the following themes:

  1. The adoption of wearable technology and smartphones in the UK and their uses
  2. The attitudes toward health data privacy and how these vary across different demographics
  3. The consensus on machine learning (AI) to improve the quality of healthcare across each age group

The results provided an unbiased insight into the opinions of the public with an almost even split between male and female participants spanning from 18 years old to over 65.

Two clear stories emerged from our findings. The first; that those with long-term conditions, such as COPD and diabetes, can and do use technology to track their health. The second; that trust in healthcare professionals has increased significantly over the last year, but people want more control over their data.

A rise in wearable technology

We discovered an obvious correlation between those that own wearable technology and have long-term conditions. 35-54 year olds are most likely to own a wearable device, such as a smartwatch, and have more long-term conditions than any other age group. They are also more likely than any other demographic to use their wearable to manage an existing health condition or understand their personal health.

The data also revealed that tracking of key health metrics, like weight and heart rate, is only set to increase in the coming months. Blood pressure monitoring is due to increase the most by 73%, while weight tracking is set to increase by 46%. Interestingly, the only metric that is not predicted to increase is sleep tracking.

More trust in professionals

Trust in healthcare professionals, such as GPs and Consultants, has improved dramatically over the last twelve months. In fact, those who agree they would share their health data with a professional to improve their quality of care has increased by a staggering 98%. GPs remain the most trusted with almost all respondents comfortable to share their health data with them, however surgeons have shown the biggest improvement of 103% year-on-year.

This trust is also reflected in attitudes toward AI in healthcare, as nearly half of all respondents would be comfortable sharing their health data with machine learning to improve the quality of their care. Unsurprisingly, the younger generation is more receptive to this technology with 77% of 18-34 year olds agreeing to share their data with AI.

Call for greater transparency

Such a significant increase in trust may be surprising in the wake of data privacy scandals this year, such as Cambridge Analytica, but there has been a noticeable rise in the number of people who believe they should be in control of who can access their health data. Those who strongly agree they should be in control of their data has increased from 40% to 72%, while those who disagree has fallen from 20% to just 0.7%. This could be attributed to the increased education around data privacy in the wake of such scandals.

There has also been a corresponding increase in the number of people who want to be told what health data is being collected about them, as those that strongly agree with this has risen from 39% to 68%. No one strongly disagreed with this statement, which could also relate to the public’s desire to understand what data is being held about them in the wake of privacy scandals. This has dropped from 11% last year, which highlights a major shift in attitude.

Find out more

This has only scratched the surface of what we uncovered in the Digital Health Survey 2019. Visit our results page to find out more and download a copy for all the insights on wearable technology, health data privacy and machine learning.

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