State of the art and a mixed-method personalized approach to assess patient perceptions on medical record sharing and sensitivity

Hiral Soni, Adela Grando, Anita Murcko, Sabrina Diaz, Madhumita Mukundan, Nassim Idouraine, George Karway, Michael Todd, Darwyn Chern, Christy Dye, Mary Jo Whitfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective: Sensitive health information possesses risks, such as stigma and discrimination, when disclosed. Few studies have used a patient's own electronic health records (EHRs) to explore what types of information are considered sensitive and how such perceptions affect data sharing preferences. After a systematic literature review, we designed and piloted a mixed-method approach that employs an individual's own records to assess content sensitivity and preferences for granular data sharing for care and research. Methods: A systematic literature review of methodologies employed to assess data sharing willingness and perceptions on data sensitivity was conducted. A methodology was designed to organize and categorize sensitive health information from EHRs. Patients were asked permission to access their EHRs, including those available through the state's health information exchange. A semi-structured interview script with closed card sorting was designed and personalized to each participant's own EHRs using 30 items from each patient record. This mixed method combines the quantitative outcomes from the card sorting exercises with themes captured from interview audio recording analysis. Results: Eight publications on patients’ perspectives on data sharing and sensitivity were found. Based on our systematic review, the proposed method meets a need to use EHRs to systematize the study of data privacy issues. Twenty-five patients with behavioral health conditions, English and Spanish-speaking, were recruited. On average, participants recognized 82.7% of the 30 items from their own EHRs. Participants considered mental health (76.0%), sexual and reproductive health (75.0%) and alcohol use and alcoholism (50.0%) sensitive information. Participants were willing to share information related to other addictions (100.0%), genetic data (95.8%) and general physical health information (90.5%). Conclusion: The findings indicate diversity in patient views on EHR sensitivity and data sharing preferences and the need for more granular and patient-centered electronic consent mechanisms to accommodate patient needs. More research is needed to validate the generalizability of the proposed methodology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103338
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Behavioral health
  • Card sorting
  • Data sharing
  • Electronic medical records
  • Patient preferences
  • Sensitive data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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