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Majority of Patients Trust Healthcare Providers with Personal Information, Study Finds

January 29, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Cybersecurity is a growing concern for healthcare organizations, yet despite major breaches this past year, 74 percent of respondents to a survey said they trusted healthcare providers to handle personal information responsibly, according to the TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance U.S. Consumer Privacy Index.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) released the study Thursday in conjunction with Data Privacy Day.

The findings in the TRUSTe/NCSA Consumer Privacy Index indicate that trust remains a significant issue with consumers, as just 56 percent of respondents trust businesses with their personal information online. Along with healthcare providers, financial organizations were most trusted to handle personal information responsibly, according to 72 percent of respondents. Social networks (35 percent) and advertisers (25 percent) were the least trusted.

The report says there is more that healthcare providers can do to lower privacy concerns, specifically by being more transparent about how they are collecting and using patients’ data.

The survey found that consumer online privacy concerns remain extremely high with 92 percent of American Internet users worrying to some extent about their privacy online. And, the study indicated that respondents are more concerned about data privacy than they are about losing their income, as 68 percent were concerned about not knowing how personal information collected about them online is used compared with 57 percent concerned with losing their principle source of income.

 “To close this gap, it appears consumers are demanding more transparency in exchange for trust and want to be able to control how data is collected, used and shared with simpler tools to help them manage their privacy online,” the report authors stated. Specifically, 46 percent of respondents don’t feel they have control of any personal information they may have provided online, 32 percent think protecting personal information online is too complex and 38 percent of those who worry about their privacy online say companies providing clear procedures for removing personal information would increase trust. 

And, the research points to an awareness-action shortfall as 75 percent of American Internet users believe that they protect their privacy online very or fairly well and yet their actions tell a different story.

For instance, while 60 percent were aware that they could delete cookies, cache or browsing history to help protect their privacy online, only 53 percent actually did it. And, 33 percent were aware they could read privacy policies, yet just 16 percent actually did.

Despite this ‘privacy awareness deficit,’ consumer concerns about data privacy can have a significant business impact. According to the study, 89 percent of respondents avoid companies they don’t believe protect their privacy and 74 percent of those who worry about their privacy online limited their online activity in the last 12 months due to their concerns.

 “Consumer privacy concern is real and rising and businesses need to act now to rebuild trust with their customers before it hurts the bottom line through lost clicks, downloads and sales,” Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe said. “With 3 out of 4 Americans who worry about their privacy modifying their online activity last year due to privacy concerns this research shows privacy is not just good practice it is simply good business.” 

The TRUSTe/National Cyber Security Alliance U.S. Consumer Privacy Index 2016 is based on data from on online survey conducted by Ipsos with 1,000 US Internet users.

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