We seldom hear about advances in healthcare technology that are not data-centric. New types and uses for sensors, transmission tech, analytical algorithms, and reporting software are all potential points of information security vulnerability. We’ve noted that the ECRI Institute considers cybersecurity the greatest threat to health tech. A Harris Poll conducted for the University of Phoenix found that patients are the weakest link in healthcare data security.

A recent global study found that people have become more guarded than in earlier years about their personal information, including their current location. Most consumers, however, make exceptions for protective applications. Unisys began issuing annual reports on consumer concerns about all forms of security in 2007. The 2018 Unisys Security Index found that in general consumers are more anxious about identity theft and bank card fraud than they are about epidemics, terrorism, and natural disasters.

Respondents in the global study did not support apps that acted on personal information independently. Police tracking user location from fitness trackers without consent, health insurance companies monitoring exercise, or banks making automatic payments received relatively little consumer love. However, a great majority of consumers (79%) supported medical devices that send significant health change alerts to doctors. People also supported protective apps such as one-touch buttons that send personal location information to police and emergency responders (86%) and luggage sensors that send owner alerts when unloaded (75%).

The bottom line here appears to be that consumers are getting more savvy about the risks involved in sharing their data indiscriminately. The good news for the health tech industry, however, is that consumers see the benefits of sharing data with healthcare professionals, presumably with the hope that it will lead to faster diagnoses and more effective treatment of disease. Manufacturers will do well to guard that trust and deliver on the benefits without putting patient data at risk.