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02/22/2007 Archived Entry: "You thought medical records were private?"
YOU MIGHT THINK THAT MEDICAL INFORMATION IS PRIVATE
The munificent fedgov has assured us that our privacy is protected. The HIPPA law says so. You can read it yourself: download the full text of the regulation -all 2.6 MB of it, and wade right in.
Silver here. I didn't read it all, but I read enough. HIPPA requires notification when records are disclosed, not privacy. In practice, when you come to a doctor's office for the first time, or any time to a hospital, you will given a form to sign. Read it carefully, and you'll find that you are consenting to disclose your personal medical records to pretty much anyone.
The regs cover only records kept by health care providers, health plans, and health clearinghouses - and only if the facility maintains and transmits records in electronic form. Doctors using paper records but who use fax, email, or telephone to transmit prescriptions have been informed by some
thugs agents of the federal government that they fall under HIPPA.
What you won't see discussed is the fact that prescription records are NOT private. Dr. Deborah Peel discusses this in an eye-opening article on NEPSI - the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative. (Hey, it's FREE! Free software! For doctors to use in writing prescriptions!)
There is a lively trade in prescription data. Dr. Peel reports that "market intelligence firm IMS Health reported revenues of $1.75 billion in 2005 solely from the sale of prescription records, primarily to drug companies."
It is essentially impossible for any American to have a private prescription.
Dr. Peel reports that New Hampshire has outlawed prescription data mining. I don't know how that works or how effective it might be with national chain pharmacies. I do know that I require all my medical care providers to read, understand, and sign the non-disclosure form provided by the good people at AAPS - the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Spend some time on their website if you are concerned about medical privacy.
I use offshore pharmacies to purchase my drugs, but that's slow, expensive, complicates insurance, and it won't work in an emergency. It's a sad day when you need to be afraid of your doctor and your pharmacist, but these are sad times.
Thanks to the always informative Risks Digest for the pointer to Dr. Peel's article.
Posted by Silver @ 06:32 AM CST