Trust and digital privacy in healthcare: a cross-sectional descriptive study of trust and attitudes towards uses of electronic health data among the general public in Sweden

Trust and digital privacy in healthcare: a cross-sectional descriptive study of trust and attitudes towards uses of electronic health data among the general public in Sweden
Research
Sara Belfrage, Gert Helgesson, Niels Lynøe
BMC Medical Ethics, 4 March 2022; 23(19)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
The ability of healthcare to protect sensitive personal data in medical records and registers might influence public trust, which in turn might influence willingness to allow healthcare to use such data. The aim of this study was to examine how the general public’s trust relates to their attitudes towards uses of health data.
Methods
A stratified sample from the general Swedish population received a questionnaire about their willingness to share health data. Respondents were also asked about their trust in the management and protection of electronic health data.
Results
A large majority (81.9%) of respondents revealed high levels of trust in the ability of healthcare to protect electronic patient data. Good health was associated with significantly higher levels of trust compared to bad health. Respondents with low levels of trust were significantly less willing to allow personal data to be used for different purposes and were more inclined to insist on being asked for permission beforehand. Those with low levels of trust also perceived risks of unauthorized access to personal data to be higher and the likely damage of such unauthorized access worse, compared to those with high levels of trust.
Conclusions
Trust in the ability of healthcare to protect electronic health is generally high in Sweden. Those with higher levels of trust are more willing to let their data be used, including without informed consent. It thus seems crucial to promote trust in order to be able to reap the benefits that digitalization makes possible through increased access and use of data in healthcare.

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