Go to main navigation Navigation menu Skip navigation Home page Search

Brown bag seminar | Privacy at what cost? Saving the lives of HIV patients with electronic medical records

On 16 May, 2023, Laura Derksen, researcher from University of Toronto, will be presenting her working paper on the use of electronic medical records and how it can prevent AIDS deaths by enabling patient tracing. Join the SITE brown bag seminar and learn more!

Privacy at what cost? Saving the lives of HIV patients with electronic medical records

By: Laura Derksen, Anita M. McGahan and Leandro Pongeluppe


We show that the use of electronic medical records (EMRs) can prevent AIDS deaths by enabling patient tracing. Paradoxically, patients who initially state a preference for privacy in fact benefit most from improved tracing practices. HIV patients receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), a highly effective treatment that also prevents transmission, for free in many parts of the world. Yet patients frequently lapse from care, resulting in increased community transmission and unnecessary deaths. EMRs allow health providers to manage patient data, trace lapsed patients, and encourage lapsed patients to reinitiate treatment. We implement an event study analysis using data from 106 Malawian clinics between 2007 and 2019. We find that the introduction of EMRs leads to an increase in the number of patients actively in care and to a decline in patient deaths. After five years of implementation, facilities with EMRs have approximately 34 percent more patients in care and 28 percent fewer annual deaths than facilities without EMRs. These effects are concentrated among patients under 50 years of age, and are larger among young children. Effects are also concentrated among patients who do not wish to be traced despite the fact that these patients are more likely to lapse from care and require tracing. Robust to additional specifications and supported by interview findings, the results demonstrate that an initial preference for privacy gives way to patient reinstatement in care when the health consequences are critical.

About the speaker

Laura Derksen is an Assistant Professor of Health Economics and Strategic Management at the University of Toronto.

In August 2023 she will join the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Oslo. Her research interests are: health, education, development, information and networks.

Learn more about Laura Derksen >>

Interested in attending the SITE brown bag seminar at SSE or online via Zoom?

The link to the seminar will be distributed by invitation only. If you are interested in attending the seminar – please contact site@hhs.se. Follow the instructions below:

  • Type the subject box with “Brown bag seminar *INSERT SEMINAR TITLE*”
  • Indicate your affiliation and field of interest
  • Please also indicate if you want to attend in person or online

For registered applicants, a Zoom link will be provided prior to the event via email with further instructions.

Photo by MaximP, Shutterstock.com


Follow us on social media to get the latest updates from SITE


SITE Brown bag