It’s hard to ignore the explosion of health and well-being related services that are based on technology. From mobile apps that count our steps or help us meditate, to web-connected health monitoring devices such as blood glucose meters, electronic scales, or blood pressure monitors; as well as tele-medicine services for physical and mental health – these services can simplify our lives, keep us focused on our health, and connect us to professional support. And while for many, the advantages of using technology-based health services are compelling and valuable, some may be concerned about the security and privacy of the personal health information they are sharing.
As with many decisions in life, caveat emptor – or buyer beware, is worth considering. Services that collect personal health information are required to adhere to the Health Information Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA), which regulates the protection and use of this information by services that collect it. As well, User Agreements and Privacy Policies are required of most mobile apps, web-based services, and software applications. While many of us routinely accept these without reading the details, it’s a good idea to take the time to review them before accepting them.
One of the functions of Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation (CHI) is to track and review new health and well-being services emerging from the vast digital health and benefits marketplace, which is growing daily. It takes focus and experience to identify which vendors are innovating effectively and driving value for employers. Part of the equation in evaluating digital health solutions is understanding where an organization -- and its employees – are on the innovation adoption curve. This may influence what value proposition an employer is looking for from a digital health vendor. As Mercer’s new Health on Demand survey of workers found, different segments of the workforce will respond differently to digital health solutions and will benefit from a tailored approach. Importantly, it also found that offering more health and well-being support earns employee loyalty and engagement.
The genie is already out of the bottle. It’s likely we’ll only see more and more health and well-being technology-based services in the future. It’s up to each of us to decide if the value we receive from these services outweighs the risks of our data’s security and privacy. From the continued growth and expansion of technology-based services, it appears that millions of people believe the advantages outweigh the risks.