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Trust and Healing

Patient Trust in Data Protection Associated with Satisfaction in Healthcare

Victoria Kisekka is an assistant professor in the department of digital forensics.  

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 18, 2018) – The more patients trust that healthcare providers are taking care of their data, the more likely they are to positively rate their care. This is one of the findings of a study from the School of Business, which analyzed a Health Information National Trends Survey involving over 3,500 cancer patients.

This association impacts patients’ perception of their general quality of care, according to Victoria Kisekka, one of the study’s researchers. She said that patients do not see protection of their health information and privacy as disconnected from the overall care provided by the institution.

“You would expect that the communication between the physician and the patient, for example, or a medication’s effectiveness would be viewed as separate from the health information technologies (HITs) being used, but our findings suggest otherwise,” said Kisekka, an assistant professor in the department of digital forensics. “In particular, trust, information security beliefs and privacy are linked to perceived quality of patient care.”

She said this finding suggests, then, that healthcare providers similarly incorporate data protection in their own definition and approaches to taking care of patients generally.

When patients are skeptical that their personal information is being protected, or they do not believe that there are reliable technologies in place to provide them with medical care, they are more likely to view their healthcare as being deficient, according to Kisekka.

“Some patients might choose to go to a different provider, or for others, it could affect their relationship with their provider by, for example, choosing to withhold important health information,” she said.

In addition, Kisekka said that a patient’s belief that quality of care is poor can be detrimental to a patient’s sense of overall well-being.

Improving Safeguards

The need for healthcare providers to implement higher security measures is dire, according to Kisekka, who said that over 2,000 healthcare data breaches occurred from 2009 through 2017 in the United States, exposing the health records of 176 million people.

She said that as a starting point, providers should conduct frequent audits and risk assessments of their HIT equipment and other security architecture, as well as inform patients of what safeguards are in use to protect their information and privacy.

“Even though it’s difficult to communicate the specific safeguards to patients because of the complex information security and privacy terminologies, something as simple as a handout with a statement of commitment to privacy, and assurance that medical records are protected, could reduce privacy concerns,” Kisekka said. “To a patient, this type of statement may provide a certain level of assurance that the healthcare provider is aware of the security and privacy risks, and is committed to protecting their information.”

The study, “The Effectiveness of Health Care Information Technologies: Evaluation of Trust, Security Beliefs and Privacy as Determinants of Health Care Outcomes,” was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in April.

Kisekka published the research with Justin Giboney, an assistant professor of information technology at Brigham Young University.

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