Privacy remains top barrier to patients sharing EMRs

Privacy concerns are the main barrier in getting patients to share electronic medical records (EMRs) with healthcare providers, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Protecting personal health information (PHI) from cyberattacks has become a major topic as the implementation of electronic health records reaches a high, yet evidence into the sharing of PHI electronically is lacking. In this study, researchers examined what factors affect patients' intentions to share their health information electrically.

"When a patient decides not to share their records electronically, it can result in increased costs, medical errors and undesired health outcomes," said study co-author Lawrence Sanders, PhD, professor of management science and systems in the University at Buffalo School of Management. "But patients are more concerned about privacy, and health care providers should make it a priority to let them know about all the policies and security measures in place to protect them."

The study analyzed results from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) survey of 1,600 participants, which included questions on health conditions, lifestyle and intention to share health information. Results showed that privacy concerns had the most influence on whether patients shared their information electronically. Factors of patient activation, issue involvement and the patient-provider relationship were found to be correlated with sharing intention.

“Overall, this study found that although patients are open to sharing their PHI, they still have concerns over the privacy of their PHI during the sharing process,” concluded Sanders and colleagues. “It is paramount to address this factor to increase information flow and identify how patients can assure that their privacy is protected. The outcome of this study is a set of recommendations for motivating the sharing of PHI. The goal of this research is to increase the health profile of the patients by integrating the testing and diagnoses of various doctors across health care providers and, thus, bring patients closer to the physicians.”