Consumers remain wary over safety of health wearables, wellness apps

While use of health devices and wearables continues to rise, consumers remain wary about the security of their personal health data when using the tools. 

About 35 percent of consumers say they fear their health data will not remain confidential if put online, and 23 percent of broadband household owners cite privacy and security concerns in using connected health devices, according to a new Parks Associates report

Consumer wariness regarding connected technology could stall innovation and stifle use and adoption if it is not addressed by vendors, Harry Wang, Parks Associates' director of health and mobile product, told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview.

Such concerns, Wang said, could lead to hesitation regarding use, or even an outright rejection of a tool.

"For technology providers, it is critical they address current users' concerns about device security and data privacy, but it is even more important to educate potential users about why they need to overcome their concerns and concurrently offer assurance that their personal information is indeed well-protected," he said.

The concerns aren't just limited to connected health and fitness tracking devices. Use of a smartphone in healthcare is also viewed as having potential security issues; 41 percent of respondents to the survey said they had concerns about security and privacy violations of wellness and fitness apps, according to an announcement on the report.

In fact, an article published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association points out that the number of viable, safe and beneficial mHealth apps is a big unknown, and many apps could potentially be problematic for users and caregivers.

The Parks Associates research also reveals concern regarding corporate use of health data. That worry, noted Wang, could potentially be solved by the creation of a consumer bill of rights that would detail limits and provide consumers control over collection and use of data.

"Concerns about data security have the potential to be a significant inhibitor to adoption, and the industry needs to inform and empower consumers on the security and usage of their data to drive long-term adoption and usage," he said.

In addition to Wang's suggestion of rights for consumers, draft guidelines recently were created created by a coalition--including Microsoft, Vitality Institute and University of California San Diego--looking at responsible use of wearables, smartwatches and mHealth apps. The guidelines look to address social, ethical and legal concerns that may arise during the development of mobile healthcare tools.

For more information:
- get the report
- read the announcement

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