Objective: To determine how patients and physicians balance the perceived benefits and harms of sharing electronic health data for patient care and for secondary purposes.
Design: Before-after survey of patients and providers in practices using electronic medical records (EMRs) enrolled in a clinical trial in Ontario, Canada.
Measurements: Outcomes were measured using the Health Information Privacy Questionnaire (HIPQ) at baseline and end of study. Thirteen questions in 4 general domains investigated attitudes towards the privacy of EMRs, outsider's use of patient's health information, the sharing of patient's information within the health care system, and the overall perception of benefits versus harms of computerization in health care.
Results: 511 patients (mean age 60.3 years, 49.6% female) and 46 physicians (mean age 47.2 years, 37.0% female) participated. Most (>90%) supported the computerized sharing of the patient's health records among their health care professionals and to provide clinical advice. Fewer agreed that the patient's de-identified information should be shared outside of the health care circle (<70%). Only a minority of either group supported the notion that computerized records can be keep more private than paper records (38-50%). Overall, a majority (58% patients, 70% physicians) believed that the benefits of computerization were greater than the risks of confidentiality loss. This was especially true for patients who were frequent computer users.
Discussion: While these primary care physicians and their patients valued the clinical features of EMRs, a substantial minority have concerns about the secondary use of de-identified information.
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