Your Health Data and Native Advertising?

Native Advertising is all the rage right now in the world of technology and marketing, but should it mix with your health data?

Pew Research Center recently released a survey of 461 adults and several online focus groups on the subject of online health records and how comfortable Americans are with the idea of their health data being online and shared among different sources.  The results of the survey demonstrate that when it comes to how they feel about having their health information shared, the devil is in the details.

For example, by a 2 to 1 margin Americans like the idea of being able to access their own health records themselves, and by the same margin they like the idea of being able to schedule appointments online or share information with their doctor (and vice versa) using an online medium of some kind.  However, when it comes to the question of whether patients are OK with doctors using a third party website to manage and share their health information, just over 50% said they would be OK with that and another 20% said that their answer would depend on the scenario.

Those who say that they disagree with this kind of information sharing, and those who say they would only support it depending on the circumstances cite a variety of factors as influencing their decision.  The usual fear of hacking or making their private health data public are cited, but so are more nuanced concerns around how the data would be used by third parties who have access to it.  Some cited fear that the data could negatively impact a person’s ability to get health insurance or get a job, while at least one person cited fear of advertising which might follow.  “I don’t want them [health records] in the hands of someone unscrupulous or marketing companies possibly trying to recommend a drug or something based on a condition I may have” said one respondent.

That line immediately brought to mind the issue of Native Advertising, a technique brilliantly encapsulated in the South Park episode Sponsored Content.  While the episode itself focuses mostly on the battle around ad blockers, a good portion of the episode deals with how adults in South Park comment that they feel like they have to “…chase the news” online, and often find themselves trying to access a story they think is news only to be taken to an ad for a viral video or other product.  Many recent articles on LinkedIn focus on how Human Resources need to start using Native Advertising to recruit for their companies.  Native Advertising is also old news in the world of Sales, who use it regularly.

I find Native Advertising to be supremely annoying, and a definite turn off for me; but the idea of NM using health care information concerns me greatly.  How easily could ad companies create needless stress and anxiety by crafting ads to make someone think they have a disease based on health records?  How many patients would see ads for treatments which may be contraindicated for them but demand to receive the treatment anyway because they saw it advertised?  If doctors think they have trouble right now with patients coming into their offices demanding certain drugs they have seen advertised for conditions they may or may not have, wrapping it up in Native Advertising online is going to take it to a whole new level.  Not to mention the security and privacy concerns these issues raise.  It does indeed seem to be uncharted waters we are entering.

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