Consumers Concerned About Privacy of Personal Health Data on Wearables and Mobile Apps, According to New Healthline Survey

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Despite Concerns, Survey Finds Growing Interest in the Advancement of Wearables, Mobile Health Apps and Telehealth

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“Healthline’s survey findings indicate a strong consumer interest in the advancement of wearables, mobile apps and telehealth, but the concern around the protection of personal health information should be a warning bell for manufacturers.”

Healthline, a provider of intelligent health information and technology solutions, today released the results from a recent survey(1) examining consumers’ perspectives on digital health. The survey, which was conducted among 3,679 readers during June 17-24, 2015, covered topics such as innovations in digital health, level of trust in the security of digital health tools, impact of these tools on consumer health choices, as well as emerging alternatives to a visit to the doctor’s office.

The Healthline survey revealed that many wearable and mobile health app users don’t feel their data is sufficiently secured by manufacturers. One-quarter (25 percent) of respondents indicated that they don’t believe their personal health data is secure on a Fitbit or a health tracking app. In addition, 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.

Despite these security concerns, consumers want the health and fitness support that wearable devices provide. Fifteen 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.

Other notable findings include:

  •     Mobile health apps are popular, but sustained use varies. More than half (52 percent) of respondents use at least one mobile health app, with most (49 percent) using up to four apps and the average being two apps. Demonstrating the evolving nature of today’s health ecosystem, 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).

Sixty-three percent of app users claim their top mobile health app provides a moderate or significant benefit. However, with the wide number of mobile apps available today, that is not always the case: Four in 10 (43 percent) consumers stopped 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.

  •     Consumers are looking for alternatives to traditional physician office visits. When faced with a routine illness over the past year, a majority of patients obtained medical treatment at their primary doctor’s office (71 percent). However, about 20 percent sought care at an urgent care clinic, and 13 percent used a retail health clinic (e.g., CVS Minute Clinic, etc.), demonstrating 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 consultation. Surprisingly, 45 percent of telehealth users report that they were unaware of these types of services just two to three years ago.

  •     Physicians are beginning to recognize the value of wearables and mobile apps in patient care. 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).

“Healthline’s survey findings indicate a strong interest among consumers in the advancement of wearables, mobile apps and telehealth,” said Dean Stephens, CEO of Healthline. “However, there is a lingering and noticeable concern around the protection of personal health information. This should be a warning bell for manufacturers to ensure that the security of this new technology is a top priority.”

To download an infographic illustrating the survey findings, please visit

About Healthline
Healthline provides intelligent health information and technology solutions that help healthcare organizations and everyday people make more informed healthcare decisions, improve outcomes and reduce costs. Powered by the world’s largest medical taxonomy platform, Healthline’s Health Data Solutions, Health Engagement Solutions and Health Marketing Solutions leverage advanced concept-mapping technology to deliver accurate, actionable insights. Additionally, the company’s consumer website,, delivers relevant, timely health information, news and resources to help consumers manage their health. Healthline is currently used by more than 33 million consumers per month and some of healthcare’s largest brands, including AARP, Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, Microsoft, IBM, GE and Elsevier. For more information, please visit and, or follow @HealthlineCorp and @Healthline on Twitter.

(1) The statistical significance of the survey is 95% ± 5%.

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