Consumers support EHRs, HIEs despite security, privacy concerns

Consumers remain concerned about the privacy and security of their medical records--and whether the physician uses an electronic system makes little difference, according to a new data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

While building public trust is vital to the spread of electronic health records and health information exchanges (HIEs), public support remains strong for these efforts, suggesting that consumers are aware of the benefits despite the risks, the paper concludes.

In a poll of more than 2,000 people conducted in 2013, seven in 10 expressed concern about the privacy of their medical records, and three out of four voiced concerns about security. However, less than one in 10 reported withholding information from their doctor because of those worries.

People whose doctor used paper records were slightly more concerned about privacy and security, while those whose physician used an EHR were a bit more likely to withhold information.

In addition, six in 10 people were concerned about unauthorized viewing of their records when they were sent electronically between healthcare providers, a proportion similar to those worried about unauthorized viewing when records were exchanged by fax.

What's more:

  • Three out of four respondents wanted their provider to use an EHR despite any privacy or security concerns
  • Seven in 10 supported their provider's participation in a health information exchange

All of those percentages did not change significantly from a similar survey conducted the year prior.

The survey echoes findings from a poll of Californians that found that consumers' concerns must be addressed to make health information exchanges (HIEs) and distributed research networks work.

At the same time, three of the largest health systems in the San Diego area recently announced that starting this summer, patients will be automatically enrolled in the local HIE unless they specifically opt out. They previously used an opt-in approach and were disappointed that only 300,000 patients had done so as of March.

The change may affect more than 1 million patients, who will still be able to change their minds regarding their participation. 

To learn more:
- find the data brief (.pdf)