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Control, trust and the sharing of health information: the limits of trust
  1. Soren Holm1,2,
  2. Thomas Birk Kristiansen3,
  3. Thomas Ploug4
  1. 1 Department of Law, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  2. 2 Center for Medical Ethics, HELSAM, University of Oslo Faculty of Medicine, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3 General Practice, Ishøj, Denmark
  4. 4 Centre for Applied Ethics and Philosophy of Science, Aalborg University Copenhagen, København S, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Soren Holm, Law, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK; soren.holm{at}


Clinical information about patients is increasingly being stored in electronic form and has therefore become more easily shareable. Data are collected as part of clinical care but have multiple other potential uses in relation to health system planning, audit and research. The use of clinical information for these secondary uses is controversial, and the ability to safeguard personal and sensitive data under current practices is contested.

In this study, we investigate the attitudes of a representative sample of the Danish population towards transfer of clinical data from their general practice for secondary use. We specifically study: (1) patients’ trust in different types of healthcare professionals, (2) their interest in being asked about secondary use of data and (3) their willingness to dispense from a requirement of informed consent based on their trust in healthcare professionals.

We find that adult Danes are positive towards research that use patient data, and they generally trust general practitioners, hospitals and researchers to treat their data confidentially.

Nevertheless, they feel that they have a right to control the use of their data, only 7.3% disagreeing, and that the data belong to them, only 14.0% disagreeing. Answers to further questions about the relation between trust, information and consent show that although trust modifies the wish for information and consent, there is still a strong view that the patient should control the use of data. We find no differences between those who have frequent contact with the healthcare system and those who do not.

  • demographic surveys/attitudes
  • ownership
  • public policy

Data availability statement

Data are available upon request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon request.

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  • Contributors All authors contributed equally to design, analysis and drafting of the paper.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.