Secondary research use of personal medical data : patient attitudes towards data donation
The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has highlighted once more the great need for comprehensive access to, and uncomplicated use of, pre-existing patient data for medical research. Enabling secondary research-use of patient-data is a prerequisite for the efficient and sustainable promotion of translation and personalisation in medicine, and for the advancement of public-health. However, balancing the legitimate interests of scientists in broad and unrestricted data-access and the demand for individual autonomy, privacy and social justice is a great challenge for patient-based medical research.
We observed a high level of acceptance (75.0%), the most powerful predictor of a positive attitude towards data-donation was the conviction that every citizen has a duty to contribute to the improvement of medical research (> 80% of participants approving data-donation). Interestingly, patients distinguished sharply between research inside and outside the EU, despite a general awareness that universities and public research institutions cooperate with commercial companies, willingness to allow use of donated data by the latter was very low (7.1% to 29.1%, depending upon location of company). The most popular measures among interviewees to counteract reservations against commercial data-use were regulation by law (61.4%), stipulating in the process that data are not sold or resold (84.6%). A majority requested control of both the use (46.8%) and the protection (41.5%) of the data by independent bodies.
In conclusion, data-donation for medical research, implemented as a combination of legal entitlement and easy-to-exercise-right to opt-out, was found to be widely supported by German patients and therefore warrants further consideration for a transposition into national law.