Few would trust tech companies with health data
Survey finds that consumers aren’t rushing to hand over their health data to tech companies like Google, Facebook, Apple or Microsoft.
According to a survey by venture capital firm Rock Health, the American public do not trust tech companies with their health data. Of over 4,000 people surveyed only 18% would be comfortable sharing medical records and test results with a “technology company” access to their information. 5% of people said they would share with Apple, Google, Microsoft or Samsung, and a mere 2% felt comfortable allowing Facebook to see their data.
Despite record investment in everything from wearable technology to health apps, the digital health market as so far failed to really excited consumers. Rock Health, who have invested in 13 startups so far this year, launched the Digital Health Consumer Adoption survey to explore the consumer forces at work.
The survey also identified that consumer-driven adoption of genetic services, such as the d2c sequencing offered by companies like 23andMe, is also low at just 7% of participants. Particularly interesting for the genomics d2c market is that two thirds of ‘non-adopters’, those who have so far steered clear of genetic offerings, have no plans to ever use one.
This in a nutshell is the problem for the consumer genomics industry: for the vast majority of people their genome is not a key piece of health information. Getting your genome sequenced is a fun novelty, perhaps part of a genealogy study, but not a vehicle for making important health decisions.
Illumina are attempting to get healthy people excited about their genomes through Helix, their ‘app store’ for personal genomics. “Historically, price and awareness have been the largest hurdles,” said Justin Kao, Co-founder and SVP of Corporate Development, Operations, and Strategy for Helix. “Helix believes that consumer awareness of genetics is at an inflection point—hardly a week goes by without some mention of DNA in the media, often from a new discovery.”
While it is true that the genome is enjoying an unprecedented stint in the spotlight, public awareness does not automatically equate to public demand. Health tests and technologies, genetic or not, are often lumped into the same category as medicines in the public imagination. And why would we take medicines if we aren’t sick? Overcoming the idea that the genome is only for sick people is the major barrier to wider consumer technology uptake.
And what about public mistrust in tech firms? On the face of it this finding seems counter-intuitive given how much personal data is already shared with companies like Google and Apple, from addresses and telephone numbers to their precise geographic location. This harvesting is done (largely) with the users’ permission, which implies a certain level of trust. But such unwillingness to share health data suggests the opposite, that there is actually very limited trust. Tech companies are fine for our photographs and social interactions, but not for managing our health. In the future how these companies set about bridging that gap in public trust will massively influence the development of the direct to consumer health market.