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Patients Want Easy Access to Their Health Data but Better Privacy Protections Preferred

Patients want easy access to their health data and for their health information to be presented in a concise, easy to understand format, according to a new poll conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). However, patients and consumers are well aware of the threat of cyberattacks and data breaches and they do not want their private health information to be compromised. A majority (62%) of patients and consumers said they would be willing to forego easy access to their health data if it meant greater privacy protections were in place to protect their health information.

In November 2019, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First. In response, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury proposed a new Transparency in Coverage Rule. The rule requires “employer-based group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group and individual coverage to disclose price and cost-sharing information to participants, beneficiaries, and enrollees up front.”

With access to that information, patients would be made aware of the costs they need to cover to meet the deductible of their plan or co-pay or co-insurance requirements. It would make it much easier for patients to make cost comparisons.

The cost of medical procedures is a key consideration for patients. 74% of respondents said they were very likely (52%) or somewhat likely (22%) to research how much they would have to pay for a medical procedure or service covered by their health insurance plan, and 68% said they would be very likely or somewhat likely to choose a lower cost medical procedure than one recommended by their doctor. 66% of respondents said they would consider making an appointment with a specialist, as recommended by a doctor, if they knew they would receive the same quality of care at a lower cost.

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While easier access to cost information and greater transparency would be welcomed, 3 in 4 individuals who took part in the poll said they would not support a federal regulation that increases transparency if it also meant their insurance premiums would rise.

When it comes to obtaining information on medical procedures, patients want easy to understand information rather than comprehensive information. 82% of adults said that apps and websites that provide information on a medical procedure are more valuable if they provide concise, easy to understand information rather than comprehensive information that is confusing.

The survey also revealed there is strong support for federal legislation akin to HIPAA for technology companies that collect or are provided with health data. 90% of respondents said tech companies should also have to comply with strict standards for privacy and security as is the case with healthcare organizations.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.