Americans are becoming increasingly willing to share their health information with providers, according to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center.
Previous Pew Research surveys have found that Americans are quite sensitive about their personal health information and worry about how this information might be used in ways that negatively impact their ability to secure insurance, access credit or find jobs. However, the convenience of accessing one’s health records or interacting with one’s physician online has a relatively strong appeal, the researchers found.
The most recent Pew Research Center study is based on a survey of 461 U.S. adults and nine online focus groups of 80 people. The research finds that there are a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information or permit surveillance in return for getting something of perceived value. Specifically, the survey presented the following scenario to respondents:
A new health information website is being used by your doctor’s office to help manage patient records. Your participation would allow you to have access to your own health records and make scheduling appointments easier. If you choose to participate, you will be allowing your doctor’s office to upload your health records to the website and the doctor promises it is a secure site.
By a two-to-one margin (52 percent to 26 percent), more Americans said they would accept this scenario, according to Pew. Further, some 20 percent say their response to a scenario like this would depend on the particular circumstances. Those ages 50 and older are more likely than adults ages 18 to 49 to say this tradeoff would be acceptable to them (62 percent vs. 45 percent). Furthermore, those with some level of college education are more likely than those whose education stopped at high school to find the deal acceptable (59 percent vs. 44 percent).
What’s more, very few of those who indicated this tradeoff was acceptable gave any additional explanation for their answer. Some argued that it was self-evident why easier access to their medical records and more convenient interactions with providers’ offices would be appealing to them. Others indicated their view on this tradeoff would be contingent on who could access their data, as well as how vulnerable they feel the doctor’s website is.
For instance, one focus group participant said, per Pew: “I have Kaiser Permanente insurance. Kaiser has everything available. I can look up my cholesterol results going back 10 years and more. But that is not a public website, and I trust Kaiser Permanente, and they do very valuable research. I am even in a genetics study with them – they’ve got my DNA. But this is totally different from going through some third party website.”