How private are the electronic health records? Family physicians’ perspectives towards electronic health records privacy



Ethical issues; Electronic health records; Privacy; Physicians perceptions; Saudi Arabia


Background: The study intended to measure the family physicians’ perspectives towards  electronic health records (EHR) privacy and explore the factors determining these perceptions.

Methods: All the primary care physicians were invited to participate in the online survey using a validated Health Information Privacy Questionnaire (HIPQ). Four themes were evaluated - (i) ability of computers to keep health information private (ii) accessibility to outsiders use (iii) sharing of health information with other health professionals and (iv) benefits versus risk of computerized health information. Descriptive statistics were reported for categorical and continuous data while student-t test and ANOVA were used to quantify association.

Results: Majority perceived EHR to be more private than the paper-based records while some disagreed and expressed concern about data leakage. Senior physicians (p=0.05), non-Saudi’s (p=0.029) and consultants (p= 0.004) well perceived the privacy of computerized information. Many physicians agreed to sharing of data with the Ministry of Health (53/89; 59.6%) and hospital-based research centers (49/89;55%) but did not favor data accessibility and sharing with insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Most of the respondents (48/89;54%) disagreed to the risk of possible loss of confidentiality using EHR. Higher age (p=0.018) and consultant rank (p=0.024) were strong predictors of higher scores for overall benefits of EHR and its usefulness in healthcare delivery planning.

Conclusion: The EHR does not compromise the privacy, safety and confidentiality of patient health data. The physicians acknowledged the perceived usefulness of e-health systems and advocate its implementation in larger hospitals across Saudi Arabia. However, there is a need to devise multiple strategies to prevent data leakage and breach in confidentiality by non-hospital sources.



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How to Cite

Alshahrani, A., Jamal, A. ., & Tharkar, S. . (2021). How private are the electronic health records? Family physicians’ perspectives towards electronic health records privacy. Journal of Health Informatics in Developing Countries, 15(1). Retrieved from



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