Skepticism about online security has led patients to omit medical information during physician visits, a new study revealed. When switching to electronic health records (EHR), doctors should be sure to discuss the security and benefits of the software with patients.
Mistrust of EHR systems
Data breaches at major companies are often hot news, so it's no surprise consumers are wary when divulging personal information. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association showed that this concern follows patients into the doctor's office.
Data from the 2012 Health Information National Trends Survey showed that 13 percent of patients reported withholding medically relevant information because of security concerns. A poll of more than 3,000 individuals from Morning Consult revealed that only around 50 percent trust the safety of EHRs.
EHR systems have potential to optimize healthcare across the country, but physicians need to be addressing these issues with their patients. Incomplete medical records can compromise the quality of care an individual receives.
"Patients will soon have more access to their personal health information than ever before, but they need to be educated by providers on how this will empower them to take charge of their own care," Charles Fred, president of healthcare solutions at Xerox, told EHRIntelligence.
Putting worries to rest
Whether a patient expresses concerns about electronic records, physicians should initiate a conversation about the security and benefits of new technology. Mansur Hasib, chief intelligence officer for the University of Maryland Biotechnical Institute, gave advice for talking to patients about EHRs in an article in InformationWeek.
He explained that most patients perceive paper records as more secure, but there are a number of arguments against this. Unauthorized access to physical files cannot be documented. A doctor has no way of knowing someone looked at private files, but with digital files, the system will be alerted of a breach. Further, paper records can be lost in fires or other accidents, and there are often no backup copies.
While EHRs may seem insecure, their information is encrypted to deter hackers. In the chance that a breach does occur, electronic systems note who viewed the information, what files they saw and for how long they had access. EHRs are also much easier to share in case of an emergency. Sending a complete medical history to a hospital in an urgent situation can ensure individuals get the best care possible.