THE UK GOVERNMENT plans to combine citizens' medical records with their social media and other online activity in order to introduce a 'predictive prevention' system.
The idea, according to health secretary Matt Hancock, is to target messages at people with "propensities for health problems", as revealed by their smartphone and location data, as well as their social media postings and other online activity.
Privacy campaigners, though, have warned that the "creepy" plans will make patients even less likely to share information with their GPs.
Hancock, though, claims that current public health campaigns are largely wasteful because they target everyone - via newspaper, radio or television advertising, for example.
"So far through history public health has essentially dealt with populations as a whole," Hancock told The Times.
"The anti-smoking campaign on TV is targeted at everybody. But using data, both medical data - appropriately safeguarded, of course, for privacy reasons - and using other demographic data, you can work out that somebody might have a higher propensity to smoke and then you can target interventions much more closely…
"We are now exploring digital services that will use information people choose to share, based on consent with only the highest standards on data privacy, to offer them precise and targeted health advice."
And the plans are very much an extension of existing Public Health England plans to use demographic and smartphone health data to send people personalised on healthy living. Public Health England intends to launch a pilot project next year, according to The Times.
Privacy campaigners, understandably, warned that the plan could backfire, while online commenters pointed out that it would, effectively, turn smartphones and watches into electronic tags.
Nevertheless, Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs suggested that it would help doctors to better tailor their care. µ
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