Wearables, Mobile Apps Spur Consumer Privacy Concerns

One-fourth of consumers don’t believe their personal health data is secure on a Fitbit or a health tracking app.

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One-fourth of consumers recently surveyed don’t believe their personal health data is secure on a Fitbit or a health tracking app, and nearly half (45 percent) of wearable and mobile health app users are concerned that hackers may try to steal their personal health data from a wearable.

The Healthline survey of 3,679 consumers found 15 percent of consumers surveyed own a Fitbit or similar activity tracker.

Of those, 80 percent feel that the device keeps them motivated and on-track with their exercise routine.

Almost half (48 percent) say it helps them better understand how active they are, and one-quarter (25 percent) say it helps them increase their level of activity.

"The survey results are indicating that health and fitness trackers and telemedicine are grabbing the consumer’s attention. They are finally sticking,”Healthline CEO Dean Stephens told eWEEK. "The traditional doctor office visit [which was] the only place where measurement [of health metrics] took place is giving way to more convenient solutions that provide faster access to health information and feedback, and professional advice."

Stephens said it will be "fascinating" to see who emerges as the clear leader in tracking health metrics or providing alternative methods to delivering professional medical advice beyond the walls of a doctor’s physical office.

More than half (52 percent) of respondents use at least one mobile health app, with most (49 percent) using up to four apps. The average is two apps.

One-third (33 percent) of consumers have been using their preferred mobile app for three to eight months, with another third using it for less than three months. MyFitnessPal is the most commonly used app among consumers who use health apps (33 percent).

In addition, about two-thirds (63 percent) of app users claim their top mobile health app provides a moderate or significant benefit.

By contrast, more than four in 10 (43 percent) consumers stopping using a health or fitness app within six months of starting it.

The most common reason given among those who had stopped using the app was not making enough progress, cited by 29 percent.

Mobile app prescribing is still in its infancy, but we see it emerging today, with four percent of consumers saying their doctor recommended a mobile app to them, and an additional two percent reporting that an app was actually formally prescribed by their doctor.

Of the apps recommended or prescribed by physicians, food logs and calorie counters rank highest at 34 percent, followed by pedometers or fitness trackers (24 percent); heart rate monitors (22 percent); blood sugar monitors (20 percent), and medication reminders (17 percent).

When faced with a routine illness over the past year, 71 percent of patients obtained medical treatment at their primary doctor’s office.

However, about 20 percent sought care at an urgent care clinic, and 13 percent used a retail health clinic (like CVS Minute Clinic), indicating that these options offer consumers a viable care alternative.

Additionally, nearly one in 10 (nine percent) respondents report having used a telehealth service for a minor illness at some point since these services became commercially available.

Ninety percent of those who have used telehealth feel their experience was the same or better than that at a doctor’s office.

In addition, 45 percent of telehealth users report that they were unaware of these types of services just two to three years ago.