Survey: E-health records don’t have to jeopardize privacy

Harris Poll also finds most adults comfortable with existing state and federal health privacy laws

Heather Havenstein March 26, 2007 (ComputerWorld) — Electronic health records can be recorded and shared without jeopardizing privacy, according to a Harris Interactive Inc. survey of 2,337 adults that was released today.

In the survey, 63% of respondents said that a move to electronic health records could be done without endangering their privacy, while 25% disagreed. In addition, 60% of those surveyed said that existing state and federal health privacy laws provide a “reasonable level” of privacy.

The survey, which was done in January, was designed with Alan Westin, a professor of public law and government at Columbia University who studies electronic health records.

The survey showed “about a two-thirds majority are ready to accept the potential benefits of electronic health records systems if solid privacy and security rules are applied,” Westin said. “However, about one quarter of the public remains skeptical and worried about such systemic computerization, and it will take highly robust and transparent new privacy and security programs to overcome these fears.”

The survey also found that seven in 10 U.S. adults are generally satisfied with the way doctors and hospitals handle and protect personal health information. However, 50% noted that they believe patients have lost control over how organizations like insurance companies, employers and government health agencies use their personal health data.

The survey comes at a time when privacy concerns are at the forefront of federal government and health care providers’ efforts to help spur the adoption of electronic medical records and the creation of nationwide networks to share them.

Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report  that said the federal government has not yet come up with a way to tie together the various ongoing initiatives it has to tackle privacy concerns associated with electronic medical records.

In addition, one of the country’s oldest regional health information organizations was shuttered  late last year, citing privacy as one of the challenges to continuing its operations.

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