MedCity Influencers, Patient Engagement

Are patients giving away too much data with wearable devices?

Too often in the American healthcare system, patients are the first to be blamed for rising costs, and wellness programs are implemented as a cost-saving measure.

Privacy

Today we seem to live by the phrase, “Knowledge is power.” We use wearable devices to help us understand our own habits. We can discover how much, how often, and what we are eating. We can use these tools to determine whether we are getting the exercise we need to meet our goals, and to compete against friends and family ?—?turning workouts into a game.

New technologies even help us monitor our moods and the quality of our sleep. Are you more depressed during the winter months? Does your stress level rise before a meeting with your boss? Do you get sleepy after your lunch break? Armed with this information, users can gain a better understanding of themselves, identifying patterns and using that data to make lifestyle changes.

All good, right?

That all depends on who benefits from these tools, who is accessing the data and why. Lately, employers and insurance companies are taking greater interest in our habits outside of work. In the name of wellness, corporations are providing employees with fitness trackers, setting up incentive programs and competitions that encourage workers to share their health information and lifestyle habits.

Too often in the American healthcare system, patients are the first to be blamed for rising costs, and wellness programs are implemented as a cost-saving measure.

American workers are already expected to be constantly on call. One of the prices of our connectivity is an expectation that we are always reachable. With wearable devices and wellness programs, there’s a risk that employers are gaining a deeper knowledge of our moods, habits, and overall health? — ?data that can be used to assign responsibility for patient outcomes to patients themselves. With so much information about the way we live our lives, what may happen to our already shrinking employer-paid healthcare system?

As technology moves faster and faster, we need to stop and ask questions.

Before you give your data away, take a look at the device or app’s privacy policy. Do you understand how information you volunteer will be used? Is it clear? Most importantly, how can we minimize the potential misuse of our data, and maximize the benefits of wearable technology so that they serve the individual before they serve your employer’s bottom line?

Photo: Flickr user Josh Hallett

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