Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Rock Health Survey: Digital Health needs trust -- and older users

Rock Health buries the lead -- consumers don't want to share with tech firms. [Rant on.] Digital health firms are having a tough time, despite upwards of $6 billion from me-too investors, and that's just last year. The Rock Health Digital Health Consumer Adoption Survey 2015 of 4017 people is a testimonial to the mismatch between investor optimism and consumer skepticism. On the skepticism front, blame is placed on a variety of factors, including lack of sharing of data across health providers ('Tech companies don't have the problem, it's the siloed health institutions.') But wait. "The contenders–Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Samsung—all fared poorly, with approximately 5 percent of people saying they’d share with these companies. Facebook was the outlier -- only 2% would share health or DNA data with the social network." Duh. Despite a few hysterically enthusiastic reads of this data, like Forbes, a few saw gloom. Kudos to MIT Technology Review and a few others for noting the tech company chart, small and at the end of the report.


But wait, the responders to the survey are all online.  So who are those people who answered these questions quite negatively, pouring water on the Silicon Valley gaggle of enthusiasts?  Great pains were taken to ensure that the responder profile 'matched the US census distribution' of age, income, and education. So in the Rock Health responder population, looking at the older adult segment, 18% of the responders were 65+. (That's funny, only 14.5% are aged 65+ in 2014 according to the census.)  65% of the 65+ were smartphone owners, 67% 'used an app' and 52% shared on social media. But wait, Pew says 39% of the 65+ do not use the Internet and only 27% have a smartphone. Or maybe, according to eMarketer, 40.7% of the 65+ have a smartphone.  Clearly all are having a Mark Twain (or Disraeli) "lies, damn lies, and statistics" moment.


Solution to the disconnect for tech companies and the consumer? Can the solution be in helping medical researchers connect with iPhone users (see ResearchKit)?  Or Google Life Sciences spending $50 million on heart disease research? Are Google and Apple doing the smart thing, as Dr. Ausiello asserts, forming partnerships with tech firms? Or is lack of trust (and protected privacy) really the elephant in the Digital Health market room, giving rise to privacy search engines like DuckDuckGo? Does it matter that Apple claims iOS 8 or higher cannot be 'unlocked'? If consumers believed that to be true, would they be more likely to share their health data on Facebook? Note that Facebook still enables postings of beheadings, adding an 'are you sure?' warning to viewers before playing a video that a user (not Facebook) has flagged. Really. 


The tech-health disconnect reflects a tech industry that is out of touch.  Facebook users are aging, and to keep ad revenue flowing, folks have got to post more content (the reason Facebook bought Instagram in 2012), but today posting frequency has slipped, while brand video posting now exceeds that of YouTube. Facebook, of course, can change algorithms abruptly, which can crush a company or website's traffic in a day. And Facebook demographics of users say that they are becoming older, so with all of this video playing automatically in news feeds, will irritation levels of the users rise with so many auto-start videos, not to mention how slow these might play on older devices? Will older users Dislike?


We wanted 'free technology' and we got it.  Besides Facebook, we have placed our identities onto online banking sites, mobile payment, and insurance and healthcare portals. But as with the Anthem hack, our identities were stolen without significant repercussions to those who poorly managed our data. We handed out our social security numbers like candy; we swiped our credit cards everywhere, including a plethora of online websites; and now we are waving our smartphones around at airport gates. Yet we have been seriously harmed -- and our trust in businesses is down. Does that make it inevitable that betraying our trust will keep us from handing our blood pressure numbers, let alone real diagnoses of illness, over to tech firms that always seem to be closing the gate after the chickens have left. [Rant off].

Comments

As I understand from a number of senior (I provide training support for smart phones and PC's), the real issue is value.  They don't see the value (benefit) in these applications or technology.  Unless it saves them money or provides a service that helps them with their daily lives, they aren't interested in putting the effort into learning, giving up their privacy or changing their behavior.  eReaders are a good example, once they can't get the library frequently or need larger type, they begin to look more seriously at purchasing and using a device such as a Kindle or Nook.