The Public and Doctors Agree on Importance of Specific Privacy Protections for Health IT

January 31, 2011 | Survey
Markle Health in a Networked Life

The Markle Survey on Health in a Networked Life uniquely compares the core values of physicians and patients on deployment of information technology in health care.

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Key Findings

  • When asked about requirements necessary to make sure that federal incentive money for health IT would be well spent, more than 80 percent of both the public and doctors surveyed say privacy safeguards were important.
  • Both groups express the importance of specific privacy policies including breach notification, audit trail, informed choices, and ability to request corrections.
  • The public support for these privacy policies is very high and has been consistent over time in our surveys.
  • Solid majorities of the patients and doctors do not want the government collecting personally identifiable health information as part of the health IT incentives program.
  • However, if safeguards were in place to protect identity, the vast majority of both groups expressed willingness to let composite information to be used to detect outbreaks, bio-terror attacks, and fraud, and to conduct research and quality and service improvement programs.
  • The public’s willingness to include de-identified information for these uses is remarkably consistent with Markle’s 2006 survey.


  • Since 2005, Markle has commissioned four nationwide surveys asking about the importance of privacy and security protections in three contexts:
    • Electronic PHRs.
    • Health information exchanges.
    • Health IT subsidies under the Recovery Act.
  • The findings have been consistent: Big majorities of the public view privacy and security protections as important requirements for them to support and participate in health IT efforts.
  • In this most recent survey (2010), we found physician views on the importance of privacy protections largely aligned with those of the public.