FairWarning, Inc. recently released the first nation-wide Canadian Patient Privacy Survey that reveals how privacy concerns impact patients’ healthcare decisions and more specifically measure to what degree privacy considerations influence from whom, when, where patients seek care, and what information they disclose.
The Canadian Patient Privacy Survey results reveal that the impact of patient privacy is far greater than just a legal and ethical responsibility to protect patients. In fact, concerns over patient privacy affect the flow of information to providers to use in the diagnosis and care of their patients, as evidenced by some statistics found in the survey:
* 43.2% of Canadian patients stated they have withheld or would withhold information from their care provider based on privacy concerns.
* 31.3% stated they have or would postpone seeking care for a sensitive medical condition due to privacy concerns
* More than 2 out of 5 Canadian patients, 42.9% indicated they would seek care outside of their community due to privacy concerns, with 33.7% indicating they would travel substantial distances, 50 kilometers or more, to avoid being treated at a hospital they did not trust, in order to keep sensitive information confidential, and
* 61.9% of Canadian patients reported that if there were serious or repeated breaches of patients’ personal information at a hospital where they received treatment, it would reduce their confidence in the quality of healthcare offered by the hospital.
By withholding medical information, Canadian patients are impacting the care received and hence the outcome. Accurate information is the bedrock upon which physicians assess medical conditions, and hence determines the treatment patients receive. When this information is withheld or even falsified, fundamental treatment assumptions are impacted.
The survey as a whole reveals that care providers have an opportunity to change the course of patient care by utilizing best practices for protecting patient privacy and initiating a dialog with patients regarding how they proactively protect patient privacy.
“This survey reveals that there is more work to be done to enable the free flow of pertinent medical information, and thus the best patient care outcomes,” says Kurt Long, Founder and CEO of FairWarning. Dr. Ann Cavoukian, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, stated, “The survey conducted by FairWarning confirms that Canadians take privacy into consideration when making decisions about their own healthcare – they believe there should be serious consequences for those who are responsible for privacy breaches.”
Clearly patient treatment in modern healthcare is entirely information-based. Any friction in the free flow of information between care providers and patients, such as that caused by privacy concerns, prevents the patient from receiving the best possible care. This indicates an urgent need for data custodians to establish processes to collect, use and disclose health information in a manner that preserves privacy.
For a full copy of the survey results and methodology, visit http://www.fairwarning.com/documents/Canada/2011-CanadaSurvey.pdf