Work out much? On a diet? Dealing with mental illness? How would you feel if anyone online could track down your medical information down to your sleeping habits?
Health data isn’t a topic we consider everyday, but just as geolocation has become an accepted part of owning a smartphone, our health data is increasingly urged to move from the private sphere into the public sphere. Fitbit, a company that produces wearable, wifi-connected fitness products, promotes sharing your health data with others on social media as a motivator to continue your fitness routine. Apple’s “Health” app and the Android “Fit” App also allow for easy sharing of this data. Not that you have to, or should feel obligated to. These companies have put extensive measures into place to ensure the security of this data, so unless you give away your passwords there’s little risk of it falling into the wrong hands.
But consider the effects of this later on. As health care costs continue to rise, insurance companies are more desperate than ever to find reasons to raise your premiums. Many companies already have access to this information. What if this type of disclosure becomes so normal online that we forget the impact it can have?
Now, I’d like to clarify; I’m not saying stop using these apps and devices. This data can be incredibly helpful to health professionals assisting patients, and is safeguarded from the public eye as long as it is not shared. But just as employers may ask for your social media information to run background checks (check this to see if that’s illegal or not in the first place; it varies by state), insurance companies are starting to ask the same.
Both Aetna and Kaiser are already using reduced costs and co-pays as an incentive to engage in healthy habits, but is this overreach? Should we be punished for being unhealthy? And what might be classified as an unhealthy habit? Would the occasional indulgence count? These policies are being developed at this moment, and will only become more detailed as our public data becomes richer.
What price are you prepared to pay?