• Less than half (47%) of consumers trust digital health products
  • Less than half (48%) of consumers believe digital healthcare is good for patients
  • 57% of consumers say that digital health applications should be confined to administration and not care
  • 62% of consumers don’t know what personal information is held by medical providers and only one in ten understand how their data is used and shared in relation to digital health.

A UK report launched today by leading global law firm Baker McKenzie, has highlighted efforts to increase consumer confidence in digital health are being undermined by data security concerns and public misunderstanding of the regulation in place to protect their information. Based on a survey of 2000 UK consumers, Outside the Comfort Zone: Building Consumer Trust in Digital Health reveals that less than half of consumers (47%) trust digital health products. Unfamiliar, game-changing technologies like algorithmic diagnosis are treated with particular suspicion. The majority of consumers prefer traditional health approaches in consultation (60%) diagnosis (58%) and treatment (62%) of medical conditions.

Reticent to change, consumers lack crucial knowledge about digital health products and services, particularly in relation to how their data is used and shared, and the regulation of this activity. 70% of respondents admit to being unclear on who has access to their information, and just one in ten understand how their data is used and shared in relation to digital health.

Hiroshi Sheraton, Intellectual Property Partner at Baker McKenzie says: "There is a clear knowledge gap which is cultivating misunderstanding and mistrust in digital health. Complex digital health products are outside the comfort zone of the majority of consumers. Pharmaceutical and medical technology companies and healthcare providers face an uphill struggle to build trust across diverse population groups."

Only 48% agreed that digital health is good for patients, instead believing it to be primarily a money-saving tool. Indeed, 57% of consumers said that digital health applications should be confined to administration and not used in care plans or treatments.

Data concerns jeopardize future digital health innovation

 Digital health has the potential to improve healthcare outcomes, to increase efficiency and to open up new commercial opportunities for the public and private sectors. However, consumers remain unconvinced, as mistrust and misunderstandings have made respondents reticent to share their data.

Respondents to the survey consistently rank data security among the top risks of engaging with digital health products. Fear about the safety of personal information is driving two thirds (65%) of consumers to seek to 'regain control' of their personal information. Indeed, 54% worry that their data will fall into the wrong hands, or could even be used against them in the form of higher insurance premiums or employer discrimination.

Two in ten (22%) respondents are aware that their personal information has been hacked, and just one in ten (11%) are fully confident in the legal protections in place to secure their data. As a result, many consumers say they plan to become more selective about what digital heath products they consent to use, withholding data as a means of exercising some control over their healthcare. Just 8% of consumers indicated they would become more comfortable sharing personal information over the next five years, and 20% indicated they will become less willing to engage.

Duncan Reid-Thomas, partner in the Data and Technology practice at Baker McKenzie commented, "The research highlights a persisting lack of confidence in digital healthcare among consumers.  The question is what can be done to address consumer concerns.  Part of the solution may be to do more to get the message across that the UK does have a robust regulatory and enforcement regime in place around the use of personal data in healthcare settings - there are good safeguards in place.  The research also indicates that consumers would welcome more and better information on how their data is used in healthcare delivery.  Such transparency as well as helping to build consumer trust is also an opportunity to communicate with consumers about the benefits of digital healthcare - both for themselves and for other consumers."

Using personalization to build trust in digital health

In recent years, pharmaceutical and medical technology companies and healthcare providers have taken significant strides to communicate with consumers about the use, protection and management of their data. Indeed, much of this activity is legally mandated, but the survey demonstrates that these efforts have not been wholly successful at building consumer trust.

Building a more sophisticated, nuanced approach that engages consumers in specific groups, based on common issues, motivations and preferences may be a more effective way to address consumer concerns with greater precision.

Two thirds of consumers (65%) agree that more transparency about the use of their data in digital health would create greater trust in the role of digital health. Unsurprisingly, it is the 51-64 year olds that are less willing to share their personal information, now or in the future, with 69% wanting more control over where their data is used or stored. At the other end of the spectrum, 85% of respondents aged between 18-30 years old have used digital health products in the past 12 months, and 58% believe that a shift towards digital health will improve the speed and accessibility of healthcare.

Jane Hobson, partner in the Global Transactional Healthcare and Life Sciences practice, Baker McKenzie concluded, "Communication tailored to specific population and patient groups can be a key tool in moving beyond mere compliance with information requirements towards building buy-in and adoption for digital healthcare solutions.  Working with patient associations is one way to start developing tailored communications around data use and sharing."


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