Aim: Remote health technologies have the potential to revolutionise monitoring and clinical cancer care. Physical activity monitors, such as Fitbit, could supplement traditional measures, prompting real-time clinical intervention. However, there are ongoing concerns that such technologies present a security risk to the user, with data that could be stolen or sold to third parties. We aimed to explore the perceptions of data security of physical activity monitors in people with cancer.
Methods: We undertook a feasibility study recruiting adults with early stage (n=10) and metastatic cancer (n=10) to wear a Fitbit Flex 2 for four weeks. Following the monitoring period, patients completed a semi-structured interview exploring topics related to data security, usability, notifications and impact on activity. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis.
Results: Participants’ median age was 63 years (interquartile range: 53-69; full range: 27-87) and 55% were male. Cancer types included breast (20%), colorectal (15%), head and neck (15%), prostate (15%) and others (35%). Seven overarching themes were identified, with one related to perceptions of data security. Analysis of this theme revealed participants were unconcerned about Fitbit data security in this hospital setting. Specifically: 1) participants implicitly trusted the data was secure as it was managed by the hospital; 2) participants perceived the data collected was not sensitive, lacking potential to cause harm; and 3) data security did not cross the participant’s mind.
Conclusion: Data security with respect to physical activity monitor data collected by hospitals is not a barrier for people with cancer. Anticipated patient concerns regarding data security may be disproportionate to actual patient concern. While this is likely related to the nature of data, it is potentially applicable to perceptions of data security more broadly. With trust placed in the healthcare system, organisations must prioritise data security to ensure it is adequate.