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Health Data Privacy Concerns Not Hindrance for PHI Sharing

A recent study found that patients are not more likely to withhold information due to health data privacy concerns.

PHI sharing not hindered from health data privacy concerns

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- With more providers implementing EHRs and working toward interoperability, it is not uncommon for individuals to have health data privacy concerns with their personal information in how it is used and potentially shared. However, recent research indicates that consumers might not necessarily withhold information from their providers due to EHR privacy or security worries.

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health took data from the 2011 and 2014 cycles of the Health Information and National Trends Survey (HINTS). They reviewed whether individuals were likely to withhold personal information due to privacy or security concerns, as well as quality perceptions.

For the analysis, 2,217 respondents from 2011 were included and had complete information, while 2,176 respondents from 2014 were included.

There was no difference found with the effect of privacy and security concerns on withholding behavior between 2011 and 2014, the researchers found.

Specifically, 14.79 percent of respondents in 2011 reported that they withheld information, while 14.93 percent said they did not give information to the provider due to health data privacy concerns.

“No effect of concerns regarding unauthorized access to electronic medical information on withholding behavior in either year was observed, and no difference in this effect between years was found,” the report’s authors wrote. “While concerns about unauthorized access to faxed medical information on withholding behavior was found to be significant in both 2011 and 2014, no difference in this effect was found between years.”

Researchers noted that it is critical for the public to perceive their medical records to be secure. Not only will this help fuel better communications with their providers, but it will also support “adoption and use of electronic modes of health communication made available by new technologies.”

“Our findings suggested that improving quality can buffer privacy and security concerns,” explained the report’s authors. “While technological safeguards to protect patient health information remains important, health professionals should not forget that individual relationships remain the foundation of the patient’s experience with the health care system.”

These findings are in contrast to findings from a Black Book survey released earlier this month. Just over half of surveyed consumers – 57 percent – who had experience with either a hospital, physician or ancillary provider's technology in 2016 said that they were skeptical of the potential benefits to certain technologies. Data hacking and a perceived lack of privacy were top reasons why patients were hesitant to utilize new technology.

Respondents were also unwilling to divulge all their medical information in Q4 2016. In particular, consumers were nervous about their digital health information being shared beyond their physician and hospital.

Furthermore, 89 percent of patients admitted to withholding information from their providers in 2016, with 93 percent saying it was due to concerns over the security of their personal financial information.

"Incomplete medical histories and undisclosed conditions, treatment or medications raises obvious concerns on the reliability and usefulness of patient health data in application of risk based analytics, care plans, modeling, payment reforms, and population health programming," Black Book Managing Partner Doug Brown said in a statement. "This revelation should force cybersecurity solutions to the top of the technology priorities in 2017 to achieve tangible trust in big data dependability."

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