Are Security Concerns Holding Back eHealth?

Are Security Concerns Holding Back eHealth?

Despite the ever-growing integration of technology into the average person’s daily life, there’s still one frontier that many remain resistant to when it comes to going virtual: health care. According to a recent Ponemon Institute study called “Risk & Rewards of Online & Mobile Health Services: Consumer Attitudes Explored,” many consumers still feel uncomfortable about sharing information about their health online. Are these concerns holding back the potential for a more fully developed approach toward electronic health records and other eHealthcare possibilities?

What Holds Consumers Back

The study, sponsored by Experian Data Breach Resolution, looked at the way consumers use online health services and portals as compared to other online services that involve potentially sensitive data as well, such as online banking or making purchases from smartphones.

The study included nearly a thousand participants, many of whom described themselves as regular Internet and mobile app users. Yet, 52% of respondents said that they do not currently use eHealth services, for three main reasons:

  • Mistrust that their online health information would not be fully removed upon request
  • Questions over the respect for privacy—for example, whether users would be tracked online
  • Whether complete online anonymity could be assured

Add to this the common public perception that online healthcare services or portals are not as secure as they should be, and it’s easy to see the challenges facing eHealth industries today.

What Does the Future of eHealth Hold?

With such clear reluctance from the general population, even those who are otherwise fairly tech-savvy, what future developments can be expected in the field of eHealth services? First, it’s important to recognize that there are many benefits to electronically-stored healthcare information as well as many other health-related applications.

  • Microsoft’s HealthVault lets families organize their healthcare records, and share that data with physicians or other agencies (such as children’s schools for their records). HealthVault also integrates with many popular health-related fitness apps.
  • An app called MedTracker gives patients reminders about when to take medications, but this capability is available in electronic pillboxes as well.
  • Other online-based tools, platforms and apps are already in use for nearly every aspect of healthcare, from medical billing to electronic health records and other resources.

Despite hesitance from consumers, healthcare systems are definitely making the shift toward digitally-managed healthcare, both as a solution for improving patient care and safety, and as a cost-saving measure. In fact, the Affordable Care Act was in part written to encourage and promote these technologies in order to lower health care costs overall.

The prime takeaway here is the persistent impression consumers have that their health-related data is less secure to access online than their bank accounts or credit card transactions. In order for this perception to be changed, consumers must feel reassured that the systems and products they’re using are securely encrypted; securing healthcare information is vital for encouraging the widespread adoption of eHealth services in the future.

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