ONC proposes surveys to determine EHR, HIE privacy protections

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) wants to find out how the public views the privacy and security of electronic health records and health information exchanges. In support of this objective, ONC has proposed that it conduct "computer-assisted" phone surveys annually for five years.

According to the proposal, published in the Federal Register this week, the surveys would be designed to measure the percentage of consumers who:

  • Are concerned about the privacy and security of electronic health records;
  • Report having kept any part of their medical history from their doctor due to privacy concerns;
  • Are concerned that an unauthorized person would see their medical information if it is sent electronically.

Under the proposed regulation, ONC will interview 100 individuals in a pretest survey. After that, it will interview 2,000 people per year. The results of these surveys will "inform policy and programmatic objectives," according to the proposal.

Meanwhile, a new survey sponsored by San Francisco-based EHR vendor Practice Fusion, finds that 47 percent of consumer respondents believe that paper records contribute to safer care. Just 39 percent think that EHRs increase safety.

Of those who said EHRs are safer, 77 percent said that the ability to access data electronically was a key advantage. Of those who favored paper charts, 59 percent said they're more private and allow patients to have more control over who sees them.

The poll also asked physicians the same questions, with 54 percent saying that EHRs enhance safety more than paper records. Of those, 63 percent cited access to records as the top benefit. Thirty-six percent of the doctors said paper was safer. Many of the latter respondents cited concerns about hacking and data loss with EHRs.

To learn more:
- read the ONC proposal