Are Your Patients Reluctant to Share PHI?

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, December 5, 2017

Patient and provider education is a crucial factor in facilitating PHI sharing.

Joana Gaia
Joana Gaia
 

When patients consent to share their personal health information electronically with providers they can help enable collaboration among multiple healthcare providers and avoid redundant testing; however, patients might worry about the privacy and protection of their information, how it will be used, and with whom it will be shared.

That's why education—among both patients and providers—is key to facilitating PHI sharing, according to a new study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

"If healthcare providers give patients a better understanding of how they're being protected, then patients will be more secure and more willing to share that personal health information," says Joana Gaia, PhD, one of the study authors and clinical assistant professor of the Management Science and Systems Department at the University at Buffalo School of Management.

Researchers analyzed results of a nationwide health survey of more than 1,600 participants using Health Information National Trends Survey data. The survey included questions about health conditions and lifestyles, intention to share personal health information, and more.

The researchers found that privacy concerns had the most influence on patients' decision to share their information.

Gaia calls the privacy concern the study's "unsurprising surprise."

"This seems to be so well known, but there are so few studies out there on this, and these are still concerns that are not addressed with the patient," she says.

Gaia says there are actions that healthcare organizations and individual providers can take to encourage patients to share their PHI.

Instead of just focusing on the positives and the benefits of electronic sharing, conversations with patients and PHI consent forms should include information about what steps an organization has taken to protect patients and their information.

"It's more of an informational step that I think would go a long way," she says.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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