Here’s exclusive web information from Bonnie Cassidy, president of the American Health Information Management Association, about protecting your personal medical information—whether it’s stored electronically or on paper:
“Consumers today have more reason than ever to safeguard their personal medical information. The embarrassing leak of a quarter-million U. S. State Department documents has recharged the debate over electronic medical records (EMRs), raising concerns that the government may not be capable of preventing privacy violations or enforcing consequences when they occur.
“But you need to know that health care providers (doctors, hospitals, etc) have checks and balances in place to prevent employees — even well-meaning ones — from doing something that could jeopardize confidential medical information on one computer, or an entire hospital system.
“Maintaining confidentiality means that authorized information is disclosed to authorized users for authorized purposes and accessed in an authorized manner. When you, the patient, do not authorize disclosure, you have had a breach of privacy.
“The most significant law relating to medical privacy and confidentiality is the Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, also known as the privacy rule. Developed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and issued as part of the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the rule went into effect in 2003 and gives you more control over how personal health information is used and disclosed.
“There is no doubt that the next five years will shine a spotlight on the privacy and security of electronic health records. Consumer-driven healthcare initiatives, such as patient portals and health literacy, will continue to drive EHR adoption. At the same time, incentives within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for adopting health technology—and providing every American with an EHR by 2015—will continue to spur the healthcare industry to adopt new technologies and functionalities designed to improve the state of healthcare delivery.”
As outlined in the March issue of The Saturday Evening Post, patients have responsibilities, too. We know there’s plenty of legal language to wade through, but read your doctor’s Notice of Privacy Practices and discuss any concerns. Next, check that release forms specify who will receive the requested information and why. Finally, don’t give it away—never volunteer to complete health questionnaires on Web sites or over the phone.
More information about protecting your health information is available from The American Health Information Management Association and the Department of Health and Human Services.