Britain's relaxed about mobile health data but resistant to technology
Mobile operators of health services have been told thay have a mount ain of barriers to climb before mobile health technology can be successfully adopted in the UK.
New research has shown that there is a lack of consumer understanding, that the NHS will need to take a central role, and that nearly two thirds of respondents to the study were unconcerned about medical data privacy.
The online survey from legal firm Pinsent Masons and YouGov of over 2,000 adults found a lack of consumer understanding is acting as a major barrier to the development of m-health products and services, which include everything from booking medical appointments on mobile to monitoring chronic conditions such as diabetes.
Prior to being given a definition of m-health, the majority (73%) of respondents didn't know what the term meant, and when explained 90% stated they never used m-health services, despite the examples given including established applications such as fitness apps.
The survey also suggested that with levels of trust in the NHS relatively high (with 63% of respondents either trusting it 'a lot' or a 'little'), the organisation will need to play a central role.
Despite the ongoing attention paid to privacy issues in the media, a significant majority (62%) of respondents suggested they were unconcerned about the privacy of their medical data.
Matthew Godfrey-Faussett, partner at Pinsent Masons, suggested that with the majority of consumers expressing trust in the NHS, as well as being comfortable with the privacy of their data, the public sector will be central to the longer term adoption of m-health technology in the UK.
Godfrey-Faussett stated: 'With so little public awareness of the issues associated with m-health, the launch of new products designed to support the treatment of illness, rather than the monitoring of wellness, must be expected to trigger a robust data security and privacy debate. Without the support of the trusted NHS brand, the initial clutch of m-health businesses may struggle to gain customers in the glare of that debate.
'Our survey clearly shows that in order to convert standalone m-health products and services into viable and sustainable UK business propositions, the support of the NHS will be a key prize. However, the NHS will not be interested in gimmicks. For m-health to succeed, the sector must be able to demonstrate an ability to generate revenue from either those who traditionally pay for our healthcare services (the NHS and the insurers) or the consumer.'
Godfrey-Faussett added: 'The survey results indicate that the UK public's enthusiasm for m-health would not currently sustain serious consumer-driven revenues. Whilst attitudes will change, the challenge in the interim will be for UK m-health businesses to operate for long enough to allow that change to happen.'
The 'worried few' in the survey did raise serious concerns. The minority who were concerned (38%) advocated having stricter controls over their data than are currently available, citing the following as examples of what would make them feel less concerned. Altogether, 59% said being able to give consent on each occasion their data is being used was necessary, 43% said if they were told specifically how the data may be used and 50% said if reassured they could trust the system that held their medical data.
The survey revealed the extent to which Britain's remain unaware when it comes to understanding what m-health might mean for them personally. In some cases the groups most likely to benefit from such developments showed less enthusiasm than other sectors of the population, while basic applications proved more popular than those that might genuinely transform patient care.
Nearly one third (31%) of respondents agreed m-health services could improve the NHS, and 33% of respondents would be willing to use m-health services to have their health monitored remotely. On whether m-health services could make their lives easier, more than twice as many people in full time work agreed than retirees, with 33% versus 14%. More retirees were resistant to being remotely diagnosed via m-health technology than those working full time, at 29% versus 16%.
Finally, respondents were most receptive to using m-health services in relation to appointments, with 50% stating they would be willing to use an application to book one.