As electronic health records get a starring role in the economic stimulus package in the U.S., Americans are thinking through who to trust with their personal health data.

3 in 4 Americans trust health providers above all other “data stewards” for handling their personally identified information, according to a BBC America survey conducted by The Harris Poll, published March 30, 2009.

The least trusted handlers for personal information are social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, and Search and Portal sites like Google and Yahoo!

There are differences in trust factors across generations. The older the American, the less they trust social networking sites – 92% of Matures (who are 64 and over) do not trust social networking sites, compared with 77% of Americans overall. Still, 66% of Echo Boomers (18-32) do not trust social networking sites.

One-half of Americans across all age groups do not trust search and portal sites to manage personal data.

Matures tend to trust government agencies (especially the Federal government) to handle personal information.

The poll was conducted online in the first half of March 2009 among 2,355 adults.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Based on this poll, Google Health will need to work through trusted channels to gain a stronghold among consumers in the health space. There also appears to be mixed feelings with banks and government agencies handling personal data.

As electronic health records and personal health records penetrate American health care, people care deeply about the safe stewardship of their personal information. Clearly, doctors and hospitals are seen as the trusted stewards of health information. They must hold onto that trust through adopting policies and procedures that ensure safety and security of data.

As we learned from the implementation of HIPAA and subsequent security breaches, policies and procedures for people within provider organizations and third parties who have access to personally identifiable data are at least as important as the technologies that house and move the information.