Published Online: Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A large number of Americans are expressing concerns that sensitive information about their prescription drug use and other health data are being disclosed to their employers, health insurers, and government bureaucrats. A recent Harris Interactive poll found that half of the respondents believe that patients have lost control over how their medical records are used by outside organizations. One in 6 told pollsters that they are so worried about improper disclosures of health information that they have withheld information from pharmacists, physicians, or other health care providers.

Although the majority of Americans do not share these concerns, the fact that such a significant minority is worried about privacy may complicate efforts to promote electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) and other types of computerization of medical records.

Harris researcher Alan F.Westin, PhD, noted that "about one quarter of the public remains skeptical and worried about such systemic computerization, and it will take highly robust and transparent new privacy and security programs to overcome these fears."

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