Will smartphone users opt in to Google & Apple's contact-tracing app?

Google and Apple are expected to launch their app to track the spread of COVID-19 in May.

Using Bluetooth technology, the app will notify smartphone users if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The two companies have published their technical documentation that includes their cryptography specifications and efforts to protect patient data; they have also boosted the app's security.

The jointly developed app is interoperable between Android and iOS devices. Contact tracing is regarded as one of the most important ways to contain the coronavirus and prevent the spread. But will people opt in?

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll taken in April, about 68 percent of Americans are willing to use a smartphone app to share test results with public health officials in order to track the spread of the outbreak. That number increases to 78 percent among 18 to 29 year olds and 71 percent among 30 to 49 year olds. The 65-year-old and up population was least likely to share their results, with only 63 percent saying they would.

Half of the poll respondents said they would be willing to download an app that alerted them if they came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The younger generation, 18 to 29 year olds, were more willing than others to download contact- tracing apps than people 65 years old and older.

When told that downloading the contact-tracing app would allow them to return to work and businesses to reopen, 66 percent of respondents said they would be willing to download the app.

The people surveyed also had an opinion about who managed the app. Sixty-three percent said they would download the app if their local health department managed it, and 62 percent said they would download an app managed by the CDC.

On the other hand, only 31 percent said they would be willing to download an app managed by private tech companies, including Apple and Google.

Despite the willingness of Americans to download contact-tracing apps, 47 percent of poll respondents said they wouldn't feel safer, and 17 percent said they would feel less safe after downloading the app.

More articles on health IT:
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Cerner falls but remains dominant alongside Epic for EHR market share

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