EHRs may make patients leery about sharing information, study finds

August 1, 2014

Some patients may be reluctant to divulge information when their physician uses an electronic health record (EHR) out of fear for their data’s security, according to a recent study.

Some patients may be reluctant to divulge information when their physician uses an electronic health record (EHR) out of fear for their data’s security, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Related: EHR survey probes physician angst about adoption, use of technology

The study, “The double-edged sword of electronic health records: implications for patient disclosure,” analyzed results from the 2012 Health Information National Trends Survey. It found that 13% of patients have withheld information from a physician for privacy/security reasons. A multivariable analysis of the results found a positive correlation between patients withholding information and their physician using an EHR during the patient encounter.

“When patients hold back information from their doctors, they may receive poorer care,”  Celeste Campos-Castillo, PhD, one of the study’s lead authors, wrote in an email to Medical Economics. “For example, complete health records are necessary to identify appropriate treatment and help doctors and researchers identify patterns in the patients who have certain health conditions. We need to address anything that increases the likelihood that patients hold back information to improve the care people receive. Our research suggests that the perceived privacy and security risks of EHRs may be one such thing.”

A recent RAND Health report found that many hospitals and clinics are not prepared for the health IT risks associated with EHRs.

Campos-Castillo recommends that providers address patient privacy concerns during the examination.

“Patients should discuss their concerns with clinicians, and clinicians should address privacy issues directly with patients, assuring them about the confidentiality of health information in EHRs,” she said. “It is important to recognize that what appear to be merely problems associated with EHRs can directly affect the relationship patients have with their doctors and the quality of care they receive.”

Related: 5 ways to put EHR data into action