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Majority of UK citizens happy to share wearable data with GPs

UK citizens willing to share data from wearable devices such as smartwatches or wristbands with GPs, but storing medical data in a central database is less acceptable, a KPMG survey shows

The UK population have no problem sharing data from wearable devices with their GPs, but are sceptical towards medical data being shared further, a KMPG survey has found.

The survey, which asked 1,000 people their thoughts on sharing medical data, found 78% of respondents would share data from a wearable device with the GP.

NHS England has plans for the NHS to be digital at the point of care by 2020. This includes medical professionals being able to access a patient’s full medical records at the point of care.

However, the survey showed only 48% said they would agree to the NHS adding their medical records to a national database, which can be accessed by any medical professional in the country.

Caroline Rivett, KPMG’s director of cyber security practice said accessing medical data through a single source is great in emergencies, however she is also cautious about the issues it brings.

“Moving to a single source online brings its own issues. We need to make sure that the data of citizens is protected against increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks,” she said.

Earlier in September 2015, a sexual health clinic in London had to apologise after it accidentally shared the names and addresses of 780 people, which health secretary Jeremy Hunt called “unacceptable”.

The Care Quality Commission is due to review the effectiveness of existing data security measures in the NHS and how it can improve defences against cyber attacks.

Rivett said the NHS needs to “draw on skills from across government and the private sector, but also be willing to educate and engage the public to build understanding and support” in its work to protect patient data.

Those surveyed were also sceptical about allowing private companies to process their health data, with only 8% saying they were willing to do so.

“What this shows is that consumers have become tired of the intrusiveness of some of these tactics coming from businesses they don’t trust. People do not want to feel like they are being ‘tracked’ for marketing purposes,” said Rivett.

“Companies need to think long and hard about how they talk to their customers and potential customers, otherwise there is a real risk they will become alienated rather than driving new business.”

The survey also found 46% of people would be happy for their medical records to be shared anonymously to aid medical research.

A project that aims to do exactly that is NHS England’s Care.data programme, which plans to extract anonymised patient data from GPs to a database held by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The data will be used for research and analysis by the NHS and private companies such as pharmaceutical firms , but the programme has led to uproar and concerns among the public and privacy campaigners. 

Jeremy Hunt announced in September 2015 that the national guardian for health and care, Fiona Caldicott, will provide guidance on how to word a new model of consent and opt-outs for the programme before the extraction of patient data begins. 

Read more about the NHS' plans for patients' medical data

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