If you’re like many Americans, you might believe your personal health information is always protected under law — specifically, HIPAA.
However, this isn’t exactly true.
Recently, ClearDATA commissioned The Harris Poll to conduct a survey among more than 2,000 US adults aged 18 and older.* In it, we found that as many as 81% of Americans assume that all protected health data collected by digital health apps is protected under HIPAA.
And while 68% of Americans say they are very or somewhat familiar with HIPAA, in reality, HIPAA does not safeguard protected health information (PHI) within the context of digital apps or other health companies in the same way it does for “covered health entities” like hospitals and providers.
In other words, app makers are legally allowed to sell sensitive health data to third-parties or data brokers — and many Americans simply don’t know the risk these apps could pose to their privacy.
What’s more, many Americans are using online or digital health services: 44% of Americans have used online healthcare provider platforms, 39% have used pharmacy mobile apps and 37% have used digital health apps.
When we dug further into the research, we discovered four more key insights regarding Americans’ digital healthcare preferences and privacy concerns:
Many Americans don’t consider how their health data could be shared
Whether they’re overconfident in how well their data is protected, or privacy simply isn’t the main concern when navigating a health issue, Americans don’t spend much time thinking about who might see their health data. In fact, over half of Americans who have ever used digital health apps (58%) have never considered where their protected health information/data is shared when using those apps.
Privacy concerns don’t often impact where Americans seek care
Only about a quarter of Americans (27%) say privacy or security of protected health information (PHI) is among the top three most important factors when choosing where to seek care. For most, the top three factors are whether their insurance is accepted (68%), the option for face-to-face, in-person care (49%) and a fast, immediate response time to book an appointment or receive medication (41%).
Younger generations value convenience over privacy
54% of Americans ages 18-34 said the privacy and security of their personal health information is not as important to them as convenience, while 69% of those over age 65 disagreed, putting greater value on privacy and security. Likewise, 60% of Americans ages 18-34 would still use a digital health app if they knew data collected would be shared with third parties for marketing purposes, while only 17% of those over age 65 said the same thing.
As the level of education rises, so too does the importance of privacy and familiarity with HIPAA
Americans with a college degree or higher said they would not use a digital health app if they knew protected health data collected would be shared with third parties (62% vs. 56% of those with high school or less education).
Familiarity with HIPAA also increases with higher education levels: 77% of those with a college degree or higher said they were very or somewhat familiar with HIPAA as compared to 56% of those with high school degrees or less. Women (72% vs. 64% men), those who are employed (70% vs. 65% unemployed), parents of kids under 18 (73% vs. 66% of those without kids under 18), married people (77% vs. 61% not married) and homeowners (72% vs. 60% renters) also tend to be more familiar with HIPAA.
*This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of ClearDATA from May 24 – 26, 2023 among 2,053 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. For complete survey methodology, please contact email@example.com.