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Health Data Privacy, Security Barrier to mHealth Adoption

By Elizabeth Snell

- More healthcare providers are looking into adopting mobile health options, but they are also aware of existing barriers that could make that transition more difficult. Health data privacy and security are one of the potential issues that healthcare providers are finding, according to a recent paper published in The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Health data privacy potential barrier for mHealth adoption

Along with privacy and security issues, providers cited the perceived usefulness and ease of use, design and technical concerns, cost, time, and overall familiarity with the technology as potential barriers. Moreover, respondents said that risk-benefit assessment and being able to interact with others (colleagues, patients, and management) could also pose problems with mHealth adoption.

“Although mobile communication is now part of the everyday life of most human beings, the use of mhealth applications to provide health information and care is particularly challenging and calls for specific strategies,” the report’s authors explained.

By examining different mHealth-related reports and studies published between 2000 and 2014, the authors explained that they wanted to assess the content and quality of the research using pre-established categories of mHealth adoption barriers and facilitators.

“m-health is perceived as a technology that can reach anyone, anytime, and anywhere,” the authors wrote. “While the findings of our review support this general idea, it was not necessarily seen as a benefit. Professionals in fact expressed the belief that m-health brought quicker contact and communication and improved their access to colleagues, which could constitute benefits.”

The authors added that conversely, the increased workload and the disturbed workflow by colleagues were seen as barriers to mHealth adoption.

Health data privacy and security concerns were found to be tied to mHealth characteristics. Specifically, the authors explained that industry professionals were “worried about the security and confidentiality of the data contained in and transferred through these technologies, as well as potential device theft.”

Interoperability and cost issues were also cited as factors related to mHealth characteristics that could potentially create barriers.

“Perceived ease of use was another frequently mentioned factor,” the report stated. “Perceived ease of use is the perception by an individual that the utilization of a mobile technology will be relatively painless and effortless. Therefore, it was important for the professionals to perceive the usefulness and ease of use of the technology in their working environment; otherwise there would be less incentive to use them.”

Results from this paper coincide with a survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that was published earlier this year. Those findings showed that concerns over mobile health privacy was one of the largest barriers for mHealth adoption.

The EIU report found that 50 percent of respondents in the public sector said that people may misinterpret their own data and then make poor decisions if they were using mobile devices. Half of the public sector respondents also said that data privacy risks might be a hindrance to mHealth adoption.

Even with health data privacy and security concerns, 64 percent of those surveyed reported that the ability of new mobile technologies and services to provide greater patient access to medical information “could dramatically improve health outcomes.” Sixty-three percent of respondents also said that if patients have more access to their personal data, it could help them make better decisions about their own health.

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