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Privacy & Security News

ONC Report: Trust Strengthens for EHR Privacy and Security

The proportion of individuals who expressed no concerns about the privacy or security of their medical records increased significantly.

- Consumers appear to be gaining trust in the privacy and security of electronic health records. A new data brief published by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) shows slightly more than half of individuals nationwide expressing concern with the privacy and security of medical records.

Consumers appear to be gaining trust in the privacy and security of electronic health records, according to a new ONC data brief.

The brief draws from the 2012-2014 Consumer Survey of Attitudes Toward the Privacy and Security Aspects of Electronic Health Records and Health Information Exchange, completed by 2,123 individuals in 2014. Surveyed individuals reported being “very or somewhat” concerned with privacy (58 percent) and security (52 percent) of medical records in 2014, a statistically significant difference from the two prior years. Levels for 2013 were 75 percent (privacy) and 69 percent (security), and 77/72 percent respectively for 2012.

The survey revealed that only 5 percent of individuals withheld information from their healthcare provider in 2014 due to privacy or security concerns, compared to 8 percent in 2013 and 7 percent in 2012; however, that change was not considered statistically significant.

In addition, between 2013 and 2014, the proportion of individuals who expressed no concerns about the privacy or security of their medical records increased significantly. In 2014, 23 percent of consumers said they were “not concerned at all” about the privacy of the medical records, compared to 16 percent in 2013. Regarding security of their medical records, 19 percent of survey respondents had no concerns, compared to 11 percent in 2013.

The proportion of individuals who were “very concerned” about the privacy of their medical records dropped by about 15 percentage points between 2013 and 2014. There was a similar drop-off in high concern about security over the same period.

ONC researchers also found individuals’ concerns about the privacy and security of the medical record did not significantly differ by whether they had an electronic versus paper medical record. Five percent of respondents with an EHR said they would withhold information due to privacy or security concerns, compared to 3 percent who had paper records. The splits were 57 percent (EHR) and 64 percent (paper) among individuals “very or somewhat” concerned about privacy; likewise, the levels were 51 percent (EHR) and 53 percent (paper) regarding security.

In 2014, 78 percent of respondents said they supported their providers’ use of EHRs despite privacy and security concerns, compared to 76 percent in 2013 and 75 percent in 2012. Confidence levels were also high that providers had measures in place to provide a reasonable level of protection or EHRs: 84 percent in 2014, compared to 80 percent in 2013 and 84 percent in 2012.

Moreover, in 2014, 76 percent of individuals said they wanted their providers to electronically share their medical record with other providers treating them despite any potential privacy or security concerns. That level compared to 70 percent in 2013 and 74 percent in 2012.

The researchers concluded that “as EHR adoption and health information exchange increased among hospitals and physicians, consumers' concerns regarding HIE and the privacy and security of medical records declined” over the survey period. “However, it is important to note that these perceptions reflect individuals' points of view prior to announcement in 2015 of several large health care information breaches.”

 

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