Healthcare professionals need to address patients’ privacy concerns if they are to convince them to share their health information electronically.
The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act established incentives for healthcare providers to use Health Information Exchanges (HIEs).
It is well recognized that the electronic sharing of patient health information improves quality of care while reducing medical errors and costs. But this information cannot be shared without the patient’s consent.1
Studies have investigated the impact of patients not agreeing to share their information. However, few have sought to understand and address the reasons behind this unwillingness.
The authors analyzed results of the National Cancer Institute’s Health Information National Trend Survey (HINTS). It included questions about health conditions, lifestyles and intention to share personal health information.
The nationwide survey was carried out in 2014, and had more than 1,600 participants, all of whom were aged over 18. The average age was 54, and 61.4% were female.
Data were validated through various statistical techniques.
The factor that had the most impact on someone’s willingness to share their information electronically was their concerns over privacy. If a patient is worried about their data not being secure, they are unlikely to be willing to share the information.
Another important factor was the patient/physician relationship. Patients with a good relationship with their healthcare team were more likely to share their information.
Researchers also found that the more a person was involved and engaged in their own care (known as patient activation), the more likely they were to be happy to share their information. What’s more, if a patient understood the importance of sharing the information (defined in the study as issue involvement) then they were more likely to do so.
Perhaps surprisingly, trust in providers did not have a significant impact on a patient’s intention to share.
The study authors say these results have practical implications for all healthcare professionals seeking to convince patients of the benefits of sharing their information.
In the past, they say, providers have focused on educating patients on the cost and error reduction benefits of sharing their information. But this research suggests time would be better spent educating patients on the measures that are in place to protect their information.
“By making patients more aware of existing privacy policies and (the) security measures in place, the healthcare providers are creating an environment (in which) the patients are more likely to share their private health information, and therefore still able to achieve cost and error reduction benefits,” they said.
There is also a need for physicians to understand the importance of patient/doctor relationship. A good patient-physician relationship meant health professionals spending enough time with patients, involving patients in decision making and helping them to understand steps needed to take care of their own health, as well as clarifying any questions.
Abdelhamid M, Gaia J, Sanders GL Putting the Focus Back on the Patient: How Privacy Concerns Affect Personal Health Information Sharing Intentions, J Med Internet Res 2017;19(9):e169 URL: http://www.jmir.org/2017/9/e169/
- Menachemi N, Collum TH. Benefits and drawbacks of electronic health record systems. Risk Management and Healthcare Policy. 2011;4:47-55.