It is a rare individual who has managed to keep at least some of their personal information from being stored in a Federal government database. With this forum, hopefully we can help each other better safeguard the public’s personal information.
Privacy commentary on Health Care
June 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm #104131
IMO an interesting Commentary trying to balance privacy/security issues and sharing data…
Title: Hope vs. Fear: Privacy Challenges in Online Health Communities
The fear of sharing health information in an online community is all based on “What if…” scenarios:
• What if my company finds out I am ill? Will I lose my job or a promotion?
• What if my friends find out that I am dealing with a health issue? Will they stay my friends or avoid me?
• What if my insurance company finds out about this issue? Will it be considered a pre-existing condition and will my claims be denied?
• What if a future company/boyfriend/girlfriend/colleague finds out? Will they reject me just because of some perceived stigma?
Despite the laws, rules, and regulations against most of these scenarios, people are afraid to share health information online.
The problem with all this fear is that it forgets to acknowledge the benefits of sharing health information, which are based on hope.
• The hope of a discovery of a cure.
• The hope of finding people who are survivors and learning how they managed it.
• The hope of meeting people going through the same issue at the same time.
The biggest success in the treatment of breast cancer has likely been the creation of the Susan G. Komen foundation. The foundation has yet to find a cure despite raising $1.5 billion dollars for it since 1982. The organization’s biggest success has been removing the stigma around breast cancer and creating a supportive environment for women going through the issue at the same time to discuss and share their experiences. Even for health issues with limited hopeful outcomes like pancreatic cancer, the sharing of information among patients will at least be able to provide a mechanism to exchange strategies about how to manage and cope with the bad days.
In revisiting the role of sharing in an online health startup, I would circulate the customer’s health stories as broadly as possible. I would only limit revealing identity to other registered members of the Web site and even then I would build tools to help them find each other and communicate. People who are fearful will not participate in the community anyway, and they don’t provide any value unless they are willing to share their own stories.
On a broader stage, the difficulties Facebook has had with privacy are actually because people are more fearful of what might be done vs. the benefit of sharing information and participating in a community. If someone attempted to start a Facebook competitor today that focused on image sharing with the tightest control of photos possible, it would likely fail. Part of the enjoyment of using Facebook is that you have a community of people who want to share their lives with like-minded individuals. A Web site dedicated to the strict control of personal information would draw people who don’t want to share and would end up stunting the growth as it would be barren of any images, stories, or people of interest.
My recommendation is if you find an online community, with like-minded individuals and you have something you really want to share, share it. Most of the time you will end up finding someone who will say “That happened to me too!” If you are torn between fear and hope, I would encourage you to choose hope.
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