Privacy of electronic medical records: understanding conflicting concerns in an interorganizational system

Athanasia Pouloudi and Edgar A. Whitley


The privacy of medical data has become a major concern for the medical profession in the United Kingdom since the proposal and launch of the NHSnet, the national electronic network through which the National Health Service (NHS) organisations can exchange information. The national professional representative organization of doctors, the British Medical Association (BMA), fear that the initial security policy for NHSnet is inadequate whereas the Information Management Group of the NHS Executive, the top management tier of the NHS, insist that the security of NHSnet has always been a primary consideration. It is apparent, however, that the stakeholders who are involved in exchanging healthcare data and who are concerned with the privacy of medical records are more than the two obvious, currently conflicting parties and each have their own beliefs and concerns. In this paper we suggest a stakeholder analysis approach to help identify these wider stakeholders and understand their multiple concerns. This, we believe, is an important contribution because it helps to understand the broader context within which technological developments take place and ethical concerns rise. In particular, the discussion and analysis of different stakeholders’ perspectives and attitudes, as well as the investigation of the factors that led them to their current position, allow for a better understanding of the way in which they are likely to move in the future.