Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Health Privacy Survey Results

U.S. PUBLIC SHARPLY DIVIDED ON PRIVACY RISKS OF ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS


February 23, 2005//Hackensack, NJ:U.S. adults are divided right down the middle on whether the potential privacy risks associated with a patient electronic medical record system outweigh the expected benefits to patients and society, according to Dr. Alan F. Westin, Professor of Public Law & Government Emeritus, Columbia University and Director of a new Program on Information Technology, Health Records & Privacy at Privacy & American Business (P&AB).

In testimony given today before the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Westin released the results of a new national Harris Interactive® survey on the American public and what are known as Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

This telephone survey was conducted in conjunction with the new Westin Program and was fielded February 8-13, 2005.

Major Findings

* Half of U.S. adults — 48% — say the benefits to patients and society of a patient Electronic Medical Record system outweighs risks to privacy but 47% say the privacy risks outweigh the expected benefits. Four percent said they weren’t sure.


* Majorities — between 62 and 70% of adults — are worried that sensitive health information might leak because of weak data security; that there could be more sharing of patients’ medical information without their knowledge; that computerization could increase rather than decrease medical errors; that some people won’t disclose necessary information to health care providers because of worries that it will go into computerized records; and that existing federal health privacy rules will be reduced in the name of efficiency.


"I am convinced that how the public sees the privacy risks and responses from EMR managers will be absolutely critical to the EMR system’s success — or will be a major factor in its failure," Dr. Westin said. "That is the reality that program advocates will need to consider, respond to, and overcome by implementing a range of laws, rules, practices, technology arrangements, privacy education, and positive patient experiences — if EMRs are to win majority public support and high patient participation," Dr. Westin added.

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