37% of Limburg residents use apps or smart watches to track their own health
Digital applications for monitoring one’s own health seem to be gaining in traction. At least, this is what a survey commissioned by POM Limburg and conducted by B-Pact and Indiville last summer among more than 2,000 Limburg residents shows. The survey, which focused specifically on healthcare and digitalisation, yielded some striking results.
Covid-19 paved the digital path
Half of Limburg residents say they looked up information about their own health online in the past month (prior to the survey). 12% of Limburg residents have never done so. Among people younger than 35, it is only 5%; among those over 65, 23% have never searched online for their own health information.
Covid-19 has clearly paved the way to digital health data. As many as 85% of Limburg residents consulted Covid-19 medical data online last year, such as about their vaccinations or test results. Partly because of this, Limburg residents are now finding their way to their online health data quite well. Nearly 9 in 10 know where to access their vaccinations. About 7 in 10 find their way to their medical records, medical reports or lab results online. Moreover, most Limburg residents indicate that they can correctly interpret these results themselves.
The need for support in looking up one’s own medical records online does vary greatly among target groups. On average, 35% of Limburg residents say they are in need of such support. Among young people (<35 years old) and older people (+65 years old), this rises to more than 43%. Among the less educated and those of foreign origin, more than 46% even need this support. Limburg residents at higher risk of disadvantage are also asking for more support.
1 in 4 Limburg residents count steps via app or smart watch
A popular way to monitor one’s own health are apps or so-called wearables such as smart watches. As many as 37% of Limburg residents use them to track their health information. Most of them do so in the context of sports and exercise. For example, 1 in 4 Limburg residents say they use health apps or wearables to count their steps or track their running or cycling performance. Other applications are somewhat less popular. For example, 17% of Limburg residents track body measurements (such as heart rate, blood pressure or weight), 14% do so with medical data (e.g. vaccinations or lab results) and 12% digitally record data about their sleeping patterns. Nearly 1 in 10 Limburg residents (9%) use health apps or wearables on the recommendation of a healthcare provider.
Digitalisation is good for quality of care, but increases the risk of privacy violation, according to Limburg residents
The survey further revealed that Limburg residents are happy to share their health data within a healthcare setting, but not with private companies. For example, 84% agree to share personal health information with treating physicians or healthcare providers. For some 65% of Limburg residents, there is no impediment to sharing their own health data with non-treating physicians with whom they may come into contact in the future, or with hospitals for scientific research. However, this willingness to share one’s health data drops when it is intended for the business world. Only 35% of Limburg residents agree to share their own health information with pharmaceutical companies for the development of new medicines or treatments. This number decreases significantly in line with whether it relates to sharing health data with insurance companies for policy modification (17% agree) or with private companies to develop their marketing strategy (10% agree).
POM Limburg also probed the pros and cons of digitalising one’s health data. This shows some mixed feelings. 65% of Limburg residents believe the digitalisation of health data contributes to higher-quality care. But at the same time, 61% of Limburg residents believe digitalisation of health data increases the risk of privacy breaches. Almost half of Limburg residents feel that digitalisation of health data increases engagement in the care received, improves knowledge about health topics, increases attention paid to one’s own health and contributes to better personal health. Some 20% disagree.