The use of personal health information outside the circle of care: consent preferences of patients from an academic health care institution

BMC Medical Ethics 22 (1):1-14 (2021)


Background Immense volumes of personal health information are required to realize the anticipated benefits of artificial intelligence in clinical medicine. To maintain public trust in medical research, consent policies must evolve to reflect contemporary patient preferences. Methods Patients were invited to complete a 27-item survey focusing on: broad versus specific consent; opt-in versus opt-out approaches; comfort level sharing with different recipients; attitudes towards commercialization; and options to track PHI use and study results. Results 222 participants were included in the analysis; 83% were comfortable sharing PHI with researchers at their own hospital, although younger patients were more uncomfortable than older patients. While 56% of patients preferred broad consent, 38% preferred specific consent; 6% preferred not sharing at all. The majority of patients preferred to be asked for permission before entry into a contact pool. Again, this trend was more pronounced for younger patients. Approximately half of patients were uncomfortable sharing PHI with commercial enterprises. Most patients preferred to track PHI usage, with the highest proportion once again reported by the youngest patients. A majority of patients also wished to be notified regarding study results. Conclusions While most patients were willing to share their PHI with researchers within their own institution, many preferred a transparent and reciprocal consent process. These data also suggest a generational shift, wherein younger patients preferred more specific consent options. Modernizing consent policies to reflect increased autonomy is crucial in fostering sustained public engagement with medical research.

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