Healthcare Information Security

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Is Health Data Security a Top Concern for Everyone?

By Elizabeth Snell

A recent poll shows that patients are not overly concerned about their health data security.

- As technology continues to evolve, and healthcare organizations implement more connected options, it only makes sense that providers are working to strengthen their health data security. With tools such as patient portals and secure messaging though, patients can also become more involved in their health and how their protected health information (PHI) is used and transported.

However, if a recent survey is any indication, patients might not be overly concerned about their health data security.

Only 11 percent of respondents said that they had privacy concerns regarding their health records, according to the latest NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll. Moreover, only 14 percent have concerns about records held by their hospital, while 10 percent said they were worried about health records held by their employer.

“Maybe the fact that employers have had this type de-identified information for so many years, employees are finally getting used to it,” Dr. Michael Taylor, chief medical officer for Truven Health Analytics said in a statement. “Personally, I think it’s good. Most employers with whom I deal want to help their employees be healthier, and they need information.”

The majority of respondents – 74 percent – stated that their physician uses an electronic medical record system. However, health data breaches have not affected nearly that many individuals, according to the survey. Only 5 percent of respondents said they have been notified that their personal health records were compromised or accessed without their permission.

Of the individuals who said their records were accessed, 37 percent reported that the incident occurred anywhere from one year ago to two years ago. Meanwhile, 15 percent stated the health data breach incident occurred less than one year earlier and 27 percent said it happened two to five years ago.

Another interesting statistic had to do with the sharing of patients’ PHI. Approximately two-thirds of respondents said they would be willing to share their health information anonymously with researchers. This rate tends to rise with increasing levels of both education and income, the report showed. However, the older respondents were, the less likely they were to be willing to share their information with researchers.

This survey shows that patients might not be completely unwilling to work with their provider or personal physician in terms of secure messaging or using a patient portal. Individuals are aware of the use of electronic medical records, and just a small amount report that they were involved in a health data breach. However, so few respondents having health data concerns could be from one of several reasons.

Maybe patients are confident in their healthcare providers’ ability to keep their PHI safe. Or perhaps individuals aren’t necessarily aware of all of the potential risks, and just assume that nothing could ever happen to their information. Either way, it is crucial for healthcare organizations to create two-way communication when it comes to communicating with patients, especially when PHI is being transported. Health data security will work best when all parties involved understand the risks and how they can ensure information stays secure.

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