Patients willing to share health data, but only for a good reason

Patients are becoming more willing to share their health information publicly, but there is one caveat: It has to be for a good reason.

The purpose for which their information would be used was even more important to the more than 3,000 respondents of a recent study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, than being asked their consent for the information.

David Grande, the study's lead researcher from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, called that finding "surprising," according to a Reuters article.

But, in fact, another recent study shows that a majority of patients would be willing to share their healthcare information with researchers, employers, health plans, and their doctors, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

Scenarios for how the information would be collected and used in the study varied, according to Reuters. In one instance, the respondents were asked if it is OK for drug companies to use people's health information to learn who uses their products. In another, they were asked if using patients' records to find which ones had diabetes in order to improve care would be an acceptable practice.

Many of the participants did not find the use of health information for marketing purposes acceptable, but were more approving of using the data to improve care or for research purposes.

"Although approaches to health information sharing emphasize consent, public opinion also emphasizes purpose, which suggests a need to focus more attention on the social value of information use," the study's authors concluded.

In addition, there is also an underlying current of fear about security when sharing information that could make patients think twice about the cause for which the information is being used. A recent example is the cyberattack on Sony Pictures that exposed the health information of many of the company's employees and their loved ones.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- check out the Reuters article