- The American public reports a distinct distrust of healthcare institutions to keep their personal data safe, likely due to prior large-scale data breaches, according to a new survey by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in tandem with POLITICO.
- Less than 20% say they have a great deal of trust in health insurers to keep their personal information secure, while less than a quarter have a great deal of trust in hospitals to do the same. Little more than a third have a great deal of trust in their doctor’s offices.
- Thirty percent of those surveyed say they are very concerned that a company would use their internet search information to sell them medical products or treatments.
Since the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began requiring healthcare providers and their business associates to publicly disclose data breaches involving 500 or more individuals about a decade ago, such incidents have received significant media attention. And it seems those and other breaches are eroding trust among individual Americans regarding their payers and providers, according to this survey of over 1,000 adults conducted last month.
Of the respondents, 31% say they are "very concerned" and 26% "somewhat concerned" that due to the way records are kept, an unauthorized individual or entity will be able to access data about the state of their health and the medications they take.
But the distrust is also aimed at specific pillars of healthcare delivery. Only 17% say they have a "great deal of trust" that health insurance companies would keep their personal information secure; and only 24% say the same of their hospital.
Regarding the office of their personal physician, that trust creeps up to just 34%. And while less than a quarter of those surveyed say they have set up patient portals to access their personal health data, 26% say they are "very concerned" unauthorized people could be able to gain access to their personal health information in the portal.
Political affiliations skew the numbers, but only by a few percentage points. Democrats tend to be slightly more trustful of healthcare institutions than Republicans; independent voters are the most distrustful of all.
It remains to be seen whether such a survey may change the overconfidence many healthcare executives have in the way they are currently securing patient data.
Yet despite the relatively low trustworthiness, Americans tend to have a significantly higher belief that healthcare institutions will protect their personal data than other businesses. They tend to distrust credit card companies, online retailers, and Internet and social media companies at much higher rates.
The survey suggests that many Americans’ opinions have already been impacted by prior data breaches. “One in four (25%) Americans say that an unauthorized person has accessed their personal information — such as a credit card, Social Security number, or health information — in a way that harmed them in the past,” the survey’s authors wrote.