Healthcare News & Insights

Some patients withhold info due to privacy concerns, study says

As more health data goes digital, many patients are worried about their privacy – and that could affect how well they’re treated. 

76696767Federal programs and incentives are pushing healthcare providers to share more data through health information exchanges (HIEs) and greater coordination of a patient’s care among different providers.

Exchanging health data has a lot of benefits for doctors and patients, including improvements in the quality of care and increased efficiency for organizations. However, providers and patients still see some significant challenges, too.

One of the top concerns patients have: that their privacy might be breached when sensitive medical information is sent from one organization to another.

Faxes most worrisome

While patients seem to be warming up to the idea of their health data being stored electronically, they’re now worried about their privacy when doctors have to send that information to other organizations.

That’s the message in a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medial Informatics Association (JAMIA).

More than three-quarters of the patients surveyed said they are confident that their healthcare providers were taking steps to keep their information secure. However, the majority (67%) are worried that information might fall into the wrong hands when it’s faxed to another organization, and 65% are concerned that data could be breached when it’s transmitted electronically.

For some of the patients surveyed (12%), the worry was significant enough for them to admit to withholding some information from their doctor because of it. That can have a serious impact on the person’s care, since a doctor may not have all the necessary facts.

This isn’t the first research showing patients’ concerns over their information being exchanged. A study conducted earlier this year by the HHS’s Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) found that patients wanted more details and more control over what information would be shared.

What can hospitals do to address patients’ concerns? Experts recommend clearly communicating about how data will be sent and who it will be shared with. Patients are more like to withhold information if they feel they have no control over how it’s used, according to the JAMIA study.

It can also help to tell patients what security precautions are in place when data is transferred, as well as explain the benefits of exchanging health information.

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