49% of Patients Withhold Clinically Sensitive Information

The growth of digital records is a major trend in healthcare (despite the bungled rollouts), but do patients trust digital medical records? Turns out, not quite—and this might have ramifications for their health.

A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine has found that, when patients have control over what parts of their medical record doctors can see, 49% of patients end up withholding information that is clinically sensitive. Researchers designed an electronic medical record system that allowed 105 patients to say which clinicians at their health care provider could access specific sensitive information, such as a history of sexually transmitted infections, mental health problems, or substance abuse issues. Patients could hide specific pieces of data from some or all of their healthcare providers.

However, health care providers were able to override their patients’ preferences and view hidden data if they felt their care required it. During the trial, 49% of patients elected to hide information. Most patients said they liked the control of their information, but only half of doctors agreed. A quarter said they felt “very uncomfortable”, saying that hidden health care information could jeopardize healthcare.

While we certainly empathize with people who’d like to keep mental health problems or a past history of drug abuse secret, doctors have heard it all before and it’d be silly to get into more serious health trouble by not telling the person prescribing you drugs all the information they need to know.

Photo courtesy of flickr


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