Background and Purpose: To characterize the global physician community's opinions on the use of digital tools for COVID-19 public health surveillance and self-surveillance.
Materials and Methods: Cross-sectional, random, stratified survey done on Sermo, a physician networking platform, between September 9 and 15, 2020. We aimed to sample 1000 physicians divided among the USA, EU, and rest of the world. The survey questioned physicians on the risk-benefit ratio of digital tools, as well as matters of data privacy and trust.
Statistical Analysis Used: Descriptive statistics examined physicians' characteristics and opinions by age group, gender, frontline status, and geographic region. ANOVA, t-test, and Chi-square tests with P < 0.05 were viewed as qualitatively different. As this was an exploratory study, we did not adjust for small cell sizes or multiplicity. We used JMP Pro 15 (SAS), as well as Protobi.
Results: The survey was completed by 1004 physicians with a mean (standard deviation) age of 49.14 (12) years. Enthusiasm was highest for self-monitoring smartwatches (66%) and contact tracing apps (66%) and slightly lower (48-56%) for other tools. Trust was highest for health providers (68%) and lowest for technology companies (30%). Most respondents (69.8%) felt that loosening privacy standards to fight the pandemic would lead to misuse of privacy in the future.
Conclusion: The survey provides foundational insights into how physicians think of surveillance.