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Privacy concerns ‘put patients off’ treatment

14 October 2011

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Confidentiality concerns cause “well over” half of patients to withhold information from clinicians, a survey shows.

In a poll of 1,000 people, 38.3% have, or would be, put off seeking care for a ‘sensitive medical issue’ due to privacy concerns.

Almost 40% also said they would travel 30 miles or more to avoid being treated by a healthcare provider they did not trust to keep sensitive information confidential.

Respondents believe that hospital chief executives and top managers should be held accountable for healthcare privacy protections and breaches.

Nearly 90% said chief executives and senior management should be sacked or fined if they were found to be “aware of risks but failed to act and a serious breach occurred”.

The majority of those surveyed (87.2%) ‘strongly’ or ‘somewhat agree’ that the NHS should monitor who looks at their files.

“It is vital for the future of the NHS that patient information can be freely exchanged between the clinicians,” said Ted Boyle, Specialist Healthcare IT Consultant and former Systems Administration and Security Manager at NHS Lothian.

“At the same time patients have a right to expect that sensitive information about them will remain confidential. For this to happen it is essential that advanced security systems are in place to monitor exactly who is accessing people’s records in order to prevent patient data from being abused.”

Four percent of respondents claimed their medical records had already been breached.

They reported having information used against them in legal actions, having their identities stolen and suffering financially.

The survey was carried out by FairWarning Inc, a supplier of cross-platform healthcare privacy auditing solutions for electronic health.