Many Americans would be willing to share private health information, such as blood tests, height and weight measurements and even genetic testing, with their insurance providers if they received a financial incentive to do so, according to a poll released Wednesday by HealthDay and Harris Interactive.
Of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed Oct. 21-23, 76 percent said they would share the results of blood pressure tests, 68 percent said they would reveal whether they have diabetes or high cholesterol, and 49 percent said they would undergo invasive genetic testing to determine their risk of cancer or inherited medical conditions.
"This survey shows that there is a substantial opportunity for health plans to test and monitor the health status and health risk behaviors of health plan members, but that they would have to be extremely careful to avoid a potentially explosive backlash," Harris Poll Chairman Humphrey Taylor said in a statement.
Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, an assistant professor of medicine and medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a statement that although there's nothing inherently wrong with sharing the information, patients should be aware of the consequences of doing so, as employers or insurers could potentially discriminate against someone who has a higher risk of a certain disease, which could be revealed through genetic testing.
Given the high percentage of people who said they would share these results, Blumenthal-Barby said it's possible that people are unaware of the potential risks of sharing the information.
"I don't think incentives are 'bad,'" Blumenthal-Barby said. "If the aim is to help you be healthier and cut down on overall health care costs, they could be good."
Still, she said patients need to be aware of the specifics of the deal when agreeing to these exchanges.
"People may just think about the money," she said. "They need to be a little cautious and read the fine print, too."
Overall, the majority of respondents (85 percent) said they would be willing to complete a health questionnaire that asks about their height, weight, health care history, as well as their drinking, smoking and exercise habits, if their health insurance provider asked them to do so.
And of those who said they would be unwilling to do so, nearly half said they would change their minds if their health plan charged them $200 less per year for insurance.
But people were less willing to have their lifestyle influenced, even if there was a monetary reward for doing so.
Just 38 percent of respondents said they would follow a specific diet to control or reduce their blood pressure, 37 percent said they would follow a diet to reduce cholesterol, and only 28 percent said they would attend a class or fill out diary entries tracking diet and exercise habits.