Background Confidentiality is a cornerstone of good medical practice. However, sharing of medical information is often essential for safe, effective care. The advent of computerised records has increased the scope for efficient data transfer. However, the same principles for patient confidentiality remain for this format. Ambiguity in current guidelines exists regarding patient data relating to sexual health. Peer-reviewed research reveals a lack of patient understanding on confidentiality, and concerns on inappropriate data disclosure within local areas.
Aims A survey assessing patient understanding of, and views on, confidentiality and data sharing in sexual health.
Methods Data were collected using a questionnaire distributed to 203 consecutive patients seen in our busy inner-city sexual health clinic and analysed using Microsoft Excel 2007.
Results The 90 respondents demonstrated a good understanding of the definition of confidentiality (92%). Of the 54 respondents that were happy for information to be shared, 9% preferred this to be in paper format, 37% electronic, 54% were happy with both. 30% would be happy with medical record sharing between sexual health clinics, and 58% of these would prefer this information to be shared locally rather than nationwide. 50% agreed with the use of a shared database between our Trust's sexual health centres.
Conclusion Patients understand the concept of confidentiality. Pertinent to the increasing use of electronic patient records, patients prefer the transfer of information to be in an electronic format. Opinions vary on data sharing practices, and at present, half of patients agree with the prospect of a shared database.