What You Should Know:
- ClearDATA®, the first and most comprehensive provider of healthcare-specific managed cloud, compliance and defense services, recently announced the results of its Digital Health and Data Privacy Survey.
- The survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of ClearDATA, polled over 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, revealing the relationship Americans have with digital health services, including their digital care preferences and how concerned they are about health data privacy.
Survey Reveals Many Americans Don’t Realize Personal Data Shared with Digital Health Apps Could Be Sold Without their Consent
The survey found that 81% of Americans assume that all protected health data collected by digital health apps is protected under HIPAA. And while 68% of Americans say they are very or somewhat familiar with HIPAA, in reality, HIPAA does not safeguard protected health information (PHI) within the context of digital apps or other health companies in the same way it does for “covered health entities” like hospitals and providers. This means, in many cases, it’s perfectly legal for app makers to sell their users’ health data—and most Americans are utterly unaware of this potential invasion of privacy.
Meanwhile, the adoption of online or digital health services is fairly common among Americans: 44% said they have used online healthcare provider platforms, 39% have used pharmacy mobile apps and 37% have used digital health apps.
Key insights into Americans’ digital healthcare preferences and privacy concerns include:
- A significant portion of Americans who use digital health apps (58%) do not consider where their protected health information is shared, possibly due to lack of awareness or misconceptions about HIPAA protections.
- Privacy and security of protected health information are not prioritized when choosing healthcare providers for most Americans. Factors such as insurance acceptance, in-person care availability, and appointment response time are more important considerations.
- Younger generations prioritize convenience over privacy, with 54% of individuals aged 18-34 valuing convenience more than the security of their health information. In contrast, 69% of those over 65 prioritize privacy.
- The importance of privacy and familiarity with HIPAA increase with higher education levels. Individuals with a college degree or higher prioritize privacy more than those with a high school education or less. They are also more likely to consider where their health information is shared and less likely to use digital health apps if data is shared with third parties.
- Familiarity with HIPAA is higher among those with a college degree or higher, women, employed individuals, parents, married people, and homeowners.
“As more and more Americans flock to direct-to-consumer digital health apps and resources, most people don’t know the sensitive health data they share with these companies could be passed on to third-parties or sold to data brokers, without so much as a single consent form,” said Chris Bowen, CISO and founder of ClearDATA. “No company should ever be allowed to profit off a person’s private health information. Far more needs to be done to protect PHI at a regulatory level and, in the meantime, digital healthcare companies bear a particular responsibility to better educate patients about how their data will be used, and what they can do to keep their data private.”