Curiosity is also an important purchasing motive, according to a YouGov survey from last year that Schneider cited. According to this survey, a majority of users would also agree to grant third parties access to their data – but only selected ones. While about two-thirds of people would approve data use by their GP, only a quarter wants to pass their data onto their insurance company and almost none would agree to pass their data on to their employer.
Nevertheless, the insurers have a keen interest in fitness data: Jens Baas, CEO of insurer Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), caused a stir in early February when he suggested storing this data in members’ electronic patient files. Schneider sees a danger in such ideas: “Up to now, fitness trackers have been gadgets: you can wear them or not. However, the more they are integrated in systems, the more the question of voluntariness arises.”
Does the purchase come from a desire to exercise self-control or does social pressure, pressure from health insurance bonus schemes or from the employer play a key role? Schneider described cases in the US where companies were already pushing their employees to wear fitness trackers to get cheaper group rates from insurance companies.
The political scientist warned: “We must be careful that such gadgets do not erode the principle of solidarity.“ Up to now, at least in the statutory health insurance funds, solidarity has been at the core of how we insure the risk of illness. Age, sex and risk factors have not affected the fee level. Schneider sees a risk that the use of big data could lead to social sorting, the identification of risk groups based on certain characteristics, who are then required to pay higher rates.
In addition, this tracker data may lead to the attribution of diseases to the individual’s health behaviour, while social and environmental determinants would be ignored. In the future, diseases could be seen as self-inflicted, and in extreme cases, people who do not do something for their health on an ongoing basis could be excluded from insurance plans. “They forget that health has a lot to do with fate,” laments Schneider.
As an insurance professional, Klose is naturally more relaxed when it comes to the topic of fitness trackers and stresses that he does not believe that this could become a requirement. AOK put out an app in January 2016 that allows members to collect bonus points for tracked fitness activities; these bonus points can then be converted into cash or gift bonuses. The aim is to reward participation, not to punish non-participation. “These are two sides of the same coin,” Schneider responded.
Another problem for the patient, which must be resolved when using big data, emerged in the discussion on data privacy. All three discussion participants stressed its importance, however, to different degrees. For example, von Kalle explained that data privacy should not be extended to the point where patient protection against disease loses out.