Policy Preferences Regarding Health Data Sharing Among Patients With Cancer: Public Deliberations

Minakshi Raj, Kerry Ryan, Philip Sahr Amara, Paige Nong, Karen Calhoun, M. Grace Trinidad, Daniel Thiel, Kayte Spector-Bagdady, Raymond De Vries, Sharon Kardia, Jodyn Platt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Precision health offers the promise of advancing clinical care in data-driven, evidence-based, and personalized ways. However, complex data sharing infrastructures, for-profit (commercial) and nonprofit partnerships, and systems for data governance have been created with little attention to the values, expectations, and preferences of patients about how they want to be engaged in the sharing and use of their health information. We solicited patient opinions about institutional policy options using public deliberation methods to address this gap. Objective: We aimed to understand the policy preferences of current and former patients with cancer regarding the sharing of health information collected in the contexts of health information exchange and commercial partnerships and to identify the values invoked and perceived risks and benefits of health data sharing considered by the participants when formulating their policy preferences. Methods: We conducted 2 public deliberations, including predeliberation and postdeliberation surveys, with patients who had a current or former cancer diagnosis (n=61). Following informational presentations, the participants engaged in facilitated small-group deliberations to discuss and rank policy preferences related to health information sharing, such as the use of a patient portal, email or SMS text messaging, signage in health care settings, opting out of commercial data sharing, payment, and preservation of the status quo. The participants ranked their policy preferences individually, as small groups by mutual agreement, and then again individually in the postdeliberation survey. Results: After deliberation, the patient portal was ranked as the most preferred policy choice. The participants ranked no change in status quo as the least preferred policy option by a wide margin. Throughout the study, the participants expressed concerns about transparency and awareness, convenience, and accessibility of information about health data sharing. Concerns about the status quo centered around a lack of transparency, awareness, and control. Specifically, the patients were not aware of how, when, or why their data were being used and wanted more transparency in these regards as well as greater control and autonomy around the use of their health data. The deliberations suggested that patient portals would be a good place to provide additional information about data sharing practices but that over time, notifications should be tailored to patient preferences. Conclusions: Our study suggests the need for increased disclosure of health information sharing practices. Describing health data sharing practices through patient portals or other mechanisms personalized to patient preferences would minimize the concerns expressed by patients about the extent of data sharing that occurs without their knowledge. Future research and policies should identify ways to increase patient control over health data sharing without reducing the societal benefits of data sharing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere39631
JournalJMIR Cancer
StatePublished - 2023


  • data sharing
  • health information exchange
  • precision health
  • public deliberation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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