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Patient Data Breach Fear Hinders Health Data Sharing

Consumers are skeptical of technology in healthcare, a recent survey shows, especially when it comes to data breach risk.

By Elizabeth Snell

As technology continues to evolve in the healthcare industry, patients may not be as accepting of tools such as patient portals and mobile apps over a fear of a data breach.

Patients concerned over data breach risk with new technology

A recent Black Book survey found that 57 percent of consumers 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.

Approximately 12,000 adult consumers were interviewed for the survey.

The majority of respondents - 87 percent - were unwilling to divulge all their medical information in Q4 2016. Consumers were specifically nervous about their digital health information being shared beyond their physician and hospital.

For example, 90 percent were worried that their pharmacy prescription data is being shared beyond their chosen provider and payer to retailers, employers, and or the government without their acknowledgment. Nearly all respondents - 99 percent - had this same concern with their mental health notes, while 81 percent of those surveyed were worried over their chronic condition data being shared.

Eighty-nine percent of patients also admitted to withholding information from their providers in 2016, with the majority - 93 percent - saying it was due to concerns over the security of their personal financial information.

The report also found that literacy rates could affect patients’ views of cybersecurity. Patients with higher literacy rates were more likely to be skeptical with health data sharing because of cybersecurity concerns.

Nearly all surveyed providers recommend government funded programs to help increase patient health technology literacy training.

Respondents also distrust their providers, and are not confident that they can keep their personal information secure. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said their primary care physician “ does not demonstrate enough technology prowess” to reassure them that their data is safe.

As the healthcare payment model transitions to value-based care, patients will likely remain skeptical in the effectiveness of new technology involved in their care, according to the survey.

"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."

However, if providers are able to demonstrate that they can properly utilize technology with managing patient care, patients are more likely to trust their provider.

Eighty-four percent of respondents reported that their provider trust is influenced by how their provider uses technology. Only 5 percent of those surveyed said they had an issue with the actual technology.

The survey also found that physicians find the increasing amount of health data overwhelming. Nearly all physicians - 94 percent - said that the information is “overwhelming, redundant and unlikely to make a clinical difference.”

Communication was a key issue though, according to the survey, with 96 percent of physician office patients saying that they left office visits “with poorly communicated or miscommunicated instructions on patient portal use.”

Furthermore, 40 percent of patients said they tried to use their physician’s portal, but 83 percent reported it was difficult to navigate at home.

There also seemed to be a disconnect in how new technologies affected the personal aspect of patient care. Eighty-five percent of physicians said EHRs and other technologies made patient care too impersonal. Additionally, 89 percent of patients said they want access to more information and choices in their treatment providers, locations and alternatives.

“In this age of healthcare consumerism people want to receive care through technologically enabled alternatives like telemedicine visits, secure email communications with their practitioner, and immediate access to records and scheduling," Brown said.

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