Thanks to those that took part in the Digital Health Survey 2015, which closed last week. The survey asked respondents about the new generation of wearable devices, like the Apple Watch and the personal health data they can collect, such as heart rate, body temperature, distances run, and so on. Would the potential health benefits of sharing that data outweigh people’s privacy concerns? Who would they feel comfortable sharing it? And who would they definitely not want to be able to access it?

For General Practitioners and the NHS the survey results came back in their favour; the majority of people surveyed felt most confident about sharing digital health data with their doctor or with the NHS. 81% of respondents were happy to share their digital health data with their doctor and another 60% were also happy to share this information with the NHS. The same can’t be said for private companies however, with only 12% of respondents confirming that they would be happy for their personal health data to be shared with them, and just 2% were happy for this data to be shared with private companies that collect and share data with third parties.

Reactions from respondents ranged from being wary of how access to their personal health data would by used and by whom:

“I would want to know that it was for my benefit – or for general health research – and not for private companies to try to sell me something.”

The most common concern was how their personal data would be used against them:

“Would insurance companies use data to increase premiums for people with particular health conditions?”


Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet and one of this year’s Tech4Good Awards judges, said:

“We know that Apple sees the Apple Watch as a health device, and has done a lot to allay fears about data usage. The survey also shows that consumers can see the potential health benefits of wearable technology such as the Apple Watch or FitBit Flex but, with so few people trusting private companies with their health data, the case for sharing personal health data still needs to be made.

“The results show that it comes down to trust. People only want to share their personal data with people or organisations they feel they can trust such as doctors or the NHS – or if they know it will be used anonymously in” research for the public good. They don’t feel happy having private companies using their data for their own gain.

“Whilst the idea of smart, wearable, technology is becoming much more familiar and we are increasingly looking to technology to solve some of the problems of modern life, healthcare providers and private companies interested in data gathering need to provide greater reassurance to their customers before everyone will be happy to have their health tracked and shared with the cloud.”


AbilityNet’s digital health survey was conducted ahead of the charity’s Tech4Good Awards, which includes a digital health category, won last year by Peek Vision for their product, PEEK – an app for diagnosing cataracts.

  1. AbilityNet conducted the survey in March/April 2015, there were 89 respondents who completed the questions anonymously.
  2. The survey was commissioned to inform the Tech4Good Awards new award category on Digital Health. The survey report is available on request.
  3. The Digital Health Award is open to any individual, business, charity, social enterprise or government organisation with a base in the UK.
  4. The judges are looking for inspiring examples of the way that technology and the internet can help improve people’s health.

Entries for Tech4Good Awards close on Friday 8 May at 5pm.