Fear of data breaches leads 21% of patients to withhold information from physicians

The national attention on the risk of data breaches may be keeping patients from sharing information with physicians.

A survey from Austin, Texas-based software advising firm Software Advice of 243 people found that 45 percent of respondents were moderately or very concerned about security breaches involving personal health information. Nearly a quarter, 21 percent, withholds personal information from their physicians for fear of a data breach.

Approximately 54 percent of respondents also said they would switch providers as a result of a data breach. Of those, 28 percent said nothing would convince them to remain with that provider, but 37 percent said they would stay with their same providers if they provided specific examples of improvements to the practices' security policies.

Patients are most likely to switch providers after a data breach if it was caused by staff misconduct, the survey found. Of the five options presented — staff misconduct, staff carelessness, theft, a third-party breach and cyberattack — patients were more likely to stay on if the data breach was caused by a cyberattack.

To restore patients' confidence, the authors recommended closer monitoring of who has been accessing patient records through access logs provided on EHRs as well as quizzes to ensure employees understand privacy training. The authors also recommend keeping the results in case of a HIPAA audit as extra documentation. Conducting a security risk analysis can also help prevent security breaches, according to the survey.

"The results of our survey on patient fears indicate that much work must be done to restore patients' faith in data security," the survey authors wrote.

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