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Majority of Americans Say Health Data Sharing Acceptable

“It would have to be a very secure site for me to trust it. Scheduling appointments online wouldn’t bother me though.”

By Elizabeth Snell

Just over half of Americans - 52 percent - said in a recent Pew Research survey that health data sharing is acceptable, while 20 percent stated that it would depend on the particular circumstances of the information being shared.

Health data sharing acceptable when done securely, study finds

However, age did seem to be a factor in the study. For example, 62 percent of individuals aged 50 and older said that health data sharing was acceptable, while just 45 percent of those aged 18 to 49 said the same.

Similarly, respondents who had some level of college education were also found to be more likely to accept health data sharing when compared to those who have a high school education (59 percent compared to 44 percent).

For the study, respondents were given the following scenario:

A new health information website is being used by your doctor’s office to help manage patient records. Your participation would allow you to have access to your own health records and make scheduling appointments easier. If you choose to participate, you will be allowing your doctor’s office to upload your health records to the website and the doctor promises it is a secure site.

Convenience was cited as a major incentive to participate in health data sharing. Some respondents said that it was “self-evident why easier access to their medical records and more convenient interactions with providers’ offices would be appealing to them,” according to Pew. However, other respondents admitted that it depended on who was accessing their information, as well as how vulnerable was their doctor’s website.

“It depends on exactly what records are shared,” reported one respondents. “It would have to be a very secure site for me to trust it. Scheduling appointments online wouldn’t bother me though.”

Another participant said that the server would need to be HIPAA compliant, but that very few servers seemed to meet those guidelines.

Several respondents who said that it was unacceptable for their health data to be shared said that health data security was a top concern.

“No matter how safe you think the site is, it’s not. Hackers can bypass anything if they choose to,” explained one respondent.

Others were worried over whether or not marketing companies would be given their information through health data sharing options, and were concerned they would be given customized pitches:

“My health records are confidential. I don’t want them in the hands of someone unscrupulous or marketing companies possibly trying to recommend a drug or something based on a condition I may have.”

Even so, the survey results were similar to one that was conducted last year.

The majority of consumers in an NPR-Truven Health Analytics poll said they were comfortable with sharing their health data, especially if it is for research purposes. Specifically, 53 percent said that they were willing to share their health information anonymously.

However, age was once again a key factor in individuals’ responses. Sixty-one percent of adults younger than 35 were fine with anonymously sharing their health data, while just 43 percent of individuals aged 65 and older were comfortable with the concept.

Additionally, nearly all respondents - 96 percent - said health data sharing was fine if it was to reduce costs, and 95 percent said they were comfortable if the data sharing was to understand under-use.

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