As technology continues to re-shape consumers’ experiences and expectations with health/care, retail, travel and work, peoples’ concerns about data privacy are also growing as observed by a 2020 consumer trends forecast from GlobalWebIndex, Connecting the dots.

First, some overall context to the study. GlobalWebIndex “connects the dots” of consumers trends in 2020 including the topics shown in the first graphic including commerce and retail, gaming, travel, human touch, nostalgia, privacy and digital health — the first of these trends discussed in the report. Note that the data discussed in this post include responses from consumers residing in both the U.S. and United Kingdom.

The top-demanded health consumer digital health applications included,

  • The ability to find doctors and make appointments online, for 51% of people
  • The ability to access all of my health information online, 51%
  • The ability to consult with a doctor by a phone/video call, 50%
  • The ability to complete any paperwork online in advance of my appointment, 49%
  • The ability to order prescription refills through a smartphone app, 48%
  • The ability to communicate electronically with my doctor via texting, email or social media, 48%
  • A symptom checker to help decide whether to see a doctor, 45%
  • A wearable device that connects with my smartphone to monitor health, 43%
  • A health tracking app to help manage my help, 42%
  • A digital health assistant (eg., chatbot) that can offer health advice and information, 36%, and
  • A digital health coach that could help me to manage chronic disease or pain, 34%.

Note that only 6% of consumers said they didn’t think any of these applications could help them more effectively manage their health.

In addition to these digital health tools, researching health issues is a key reason for consumers using the Internet, GlobalWebIndex learned. We know web-search for health information — seeking advice on symptoms, prescription drugs, or diagnoses — has been a mainstream behavior for most consumers for several years. This study found that researching health issues online is most common among older people surveyed, 55-64 years of age, 42% of whom said researching health issues is “an important reason for using the Internet.”

The research also gauged how U.S. and U.K. consumers look at artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare, a topic not well-covered yet in other consumer market research. The results of this question, “what are the top benefits or challenges of AI applications in healthcare,” were:

On the positive front of benefits, about one-half of consumers noted the ability to detect hidden patterns that humans miss, the ability to automate routine tasks for staff, reducing the rate of human errors, and the ability to perform with greater precision.

On the negative side for concerns, roughly one-half of consumers pointed to privacy and security concerns, doctors becoming too dependent on AI, concerns with the accuracy of AI output, and the possibility of reducing personal face to face interactions.

Negative perspectives are also shared by consumers when it comes to data privacy and how organizations handle personal information, in and beyond healthcare. Very few people trust that social media companies, internet service providers, search engines (like Google), the government, and device manufacturers (Apple, Fitbit, for example) will provide the “best protection” of peoples’ personal data. The most-trusted organizational types noted were financial services providers, digital payment providers, and health care providers — with roughly only 1 in 4 consumers trusting these industry segments for carefully handling personal data.


Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Consumers getting more “angsty” about privacy, and this extends to health data. The recent revelation that Google and Ascension have been collaborating on shared patient data has spawned engaging conversation across the health/care ecosystem, including stakeholders in hospitals and physician practices, health plans, pharma, tech companies and especially among patient advocates and groups.

The third chart from the GlobalWebIndex survey asks, “how do consumers feel about sharing their data?”

Americans’ greatest comfort sharing data is with health providers, with 45% of consumers saying they’re “very comfortable” doing so. In addition, 27% of consumers are “somewhat comfortable” sharing their health data with providers, with a total of 72% (net) of people comfortable sharing health information with providers.

The next highest net percent of people comfortable with sharing their personal health data (very or somewhat) is with AI research firms, at 37% of people.

Finally, 33% of Americans are comfortable (net) sharing their health information with tech companies.

In terms of feeling uncomfortable sharing personal health data (net very or somewhat uncomfortable),

  • 10% of people are uncomfortable sharing with health providers
  • 39% of people uncomfortable sharing with tech companies, and,
  • 30% of people are uncomfortable sharing with AI research firms.

Uncertainty in sharing is highest for AI research firms at 31%, followed by tech at 26% and health providers at 16%.

Overall, consumers feel a growing concern with technology’s role in their lives, this study concludes. Since 2014 to 2019, the proportion of people who said technology makes life more complicated grew from 26% to 33%.

And, the proportion of people worrying about how their personal data is being used by companies remains relatively constant for 2 in 3 people.

At the same time, 62% of consumers said they are “constantly connected online,” growing from 56% in 2014.

With this insight, I continue to point to Deloitte’s noting our “concerned embrace of technology,” called out in their 2017 study on mobile technology.

Consumers have good reason for baking “concern” in that “embrace of technology.” The fourth graphic comes from a story in the Financial Times’ November 12, 2019, report on privacy, Google, and consumer concerns. This network-node drawing illustrates data flows from the UK website of, going to dozens of third parties as of November 7, 2019.

Consumers have begun to question the value-exchange trade-off for their personal information, in and beyond health care. This will certainly heat up in 2020 on many fronts — social, political, personal, and business/commerce. Put this in your scenario planning for the new year: I will be doing so, too.