Study at Eindhoven University of Technology

Summary of study “wearables and healthcare” by the master students (Koen Roorda & Roy de Laat) in Human-Technology Interaction (HTI) at Eindhoven University of Technology.

The idea of using wearables is to gain knowledge by gathering data. This knowledge can subsequently be used, e.g. in the form of changing a user’s behavior to improve his or her quality of life. While obtaining these data, especially if they are health-related, one must definitely treat them carefully since the data are often very privacy-sensitive.

However, people from different countries, having different cultures, having different norms and values, might also have a different attitude towards information privacy. Earlier research shows that more collectivistic countries attach less importance to privacy than more individualistic ones. Since, based on the cultural dimensions theory by Geert Hofstede, Portugal turns out to be much more collectivistic (27 out of 100 on the individualism scale) compared to the Netherlands (80 out of 100) we expect that Dutch people attach more importance to privacy, and are more concerned about privacy related issues within the field of ‘ICT wearables in healthcare’, than Portuguese people do.

The research question we would like to consider is as follows:

Do people from collectivistic cultures show more willingness to give up some of their privacy to healthcare-related applications like ICT wearables?

Hypothesis 1: Dutch people will exhibit higher levels of concern regarding information privacy compared to Portuguese people.

Despite the fact that we expect Dutch people to have higher concerns towards their privacy information. We expect that Portuguese people feel more urge of regulations made by the government concerning the regulation of information privacy. More individualistic-oriented people attach more value to deciding for themselves, while collectivistic cultures rely more on governmental decisions; they expect the government to be able to decide what is best for the entire society. In terms of healthcare, privacy and the upcoming technologies in the field of wearables.

Hypothesis 2: Portuguese people will be in need of higher levels of government involvement in regulating information privacy.

In order to test these hypotheses we would like to, partially, replicate the study by Li et al. (2016). Li et al. executed a survey to examine the attitude, of solely Chinese participants, towards healthcare wearables and tried to find out what was important for them in order to adopt these healthcare wearable devices. This study applied the theory of the privacy calculus with use of a questionnaire.
In our study we would like to partially use the same questionnaire and ask both Portuguese and Dutch people to participate. After analyzing the results we hope to be able to find answers on our hypothesis.

Hypothesis 3: Portuguese people will be more willing to relinquish some degree of individual privacy in order to increase the quality of collective health services.

The study by Johnson, Warkentin & Luo (2009) investigated whether people in a more collectivistic culture (China) are more willing to give up some degree of privacy in order to increase the security of their organization. Alike this, we would like to investigate whether people from a collectivistic culture (Portugal) are more like to give their personal health information (give up some of their privacy) in order to make the collective health system better.

We now know that the introduction of ICT wearables in healthcare will probably change the infrastructure of care-giving a lot, since a lot of ‘big data’ is coming available to professionals, governmental institutions and other organizations (hospitals, insurance companies etc.). The availability of these data will also increase the accuracy and consistency of forecasting health-related issues (like the development of diseases).  Therefore the willingness to cooperate in the ‘collective health system’ by accepting that some of a person’s private information will be used in that system, will increase its quality. 

In terms of technology assessment, this research can give some valuable information about the attitude of inhabitants towards ICT wearables (and its most considered issue: privacy) of the countries considered. With this information it is easier to build an infrastructure with rules that fit the people’s needs and wishes.


  • Li, H., Wu, J., Gao, Y., & Shi, Y. (2016). Examining individuals’ adoption of healthcare wearable devices: Anempirical study from privacy calculus perspective. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 88, 8-17.
  • Johnston, A. C., Warkentin, M., & Luo, X. (2009). National culture and information privacy: the influential effects of individualism and collectivism on privacy concerns and organizational commitment. In Proceedings of the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP), International Workshop on Information Systems Security Research (pp. 88-104).