U.S. Consumers Concerned About Privacy of Medical Records, Survey Finds
Two-thirds of U.S. residents are concerned about the privacy of their personal health information and nearly half are concerned an employer might use medical information to make employment decisions, according to a survey released Wednesday by the California HealthCare Foundation, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 11/9).
The survey involved 1,000 health care consumers across the U.S. and an additional 1,000 consumers in California (National Consumer Health Privacy Survey 2005 executive summary, 11/10).
According to the survey, more than 90% of Americans believe computer-based systems in hospitals and physicians' offices would give health care providers faster and easier access to patient information, and two-thirds believe it would reduce medical errors, AHANews reports (AHANews, 11/9). However, 66% of consumers said they believe paper medical records were very secure or somewhat secure, compared with only 58% of consumers who said the same about electronic health records, Healthcare IT News reports.
The survey found that 52% of Americans were concerned that employers would misuse their health information, an increase from 1999, when 36% expressed concern over their employer accessing their health records. In addition, the survey found that two-thirds of respondents were unaware of federal privacy laws (Broder, Healthcare IT News, 11/9).
The California HealthCare Foundation recommended that HHS seek additional funding for a public awareness campaign about privacy rights and federal health privacy rules, and it urged employers to improve discussions with their employees about how medical information is used and protected.
The foundation also said federal privacy protections should be broadened and better enforced, and it encouraged the inclusion of privacy and security standards in health IT and emergency-preparedness plans, Technology Daily reports (Beloptosky, Technology Daily, 11/9).
"We need to educate the consumer about the risks and protections of electronic health records," said National Coordinator for Health IT David Brailer.
Janlori Goldman, director of the Health Privacy Project and a member of the research faculty at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, said that while the Bush administration is committed to promoting health IT, it must do more to adopt privacy guidelines, Technology Daily reports. Privacy protections should be "a condition of receiving money or developing the network," she said. "The market is not enough to address these concerns" (Technology Daily, 11/9).
An executive summary of the survey is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the summary.