Despite privacy and security concerns over their medical records, consumers overwhelmingly want their providers to share information, according to a nationwide survey by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

While about 70 percent of consumers expressed concerns in the survey about privacy and security, only 8 percent of respondents in fact withheld information from their providers due to those concerns. In 2012 and 2013, ONC conducted nationally representative surveys of consumers to examine their attitudes toward privacy and security, as well as their preferences in terms of electronic health records and health information exchange.

“As EHR adoption was increasing and in anticipation of the exchange of health information increasing as well, ONC wanted to assess whether that would impact individuals’ concerns regarding their medical records,” said ONC’s Vaishali Patel in a presentation of the survey results at a Nov. 4 Health IT Policy Committee meeting. Patel reported that “in spite of the fact that EHR adoption increased between 2012 and 2013, the levels of concern did not significantly change.”

Despite potential privacy or security concerns, survey results indicate “consistent and relatively high” consumer support for EHRs and HIE (more than 70 percent) in 2012 and 2013, she said.

Among the findings of the survey was that although consumer privacy and security concerns were slightly higher when a provider had a paper medical record, the differences were not statistically significant compared to when a provider had an EHR. In addition, a majority of survey respondents (about 60 percent) expressed concerns regarding providers sending medical records, whether paper or electronic, and this concern didn’t change between 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, the telephone survey was completed by 2,050 respondents, and in 2013 the survey was completed by 2,107 individuals. Patel said ONC is planning on publishing the results of the surveys in a series of data briefs that will be available shortly on the agency’s website.

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