Your Medical Records: How Private Are They?

By Lee Bellinger / November 12, 2013

Are All of Your Medical Records Really Protected?

Many people do not like the idea of their private medical records being exposed for all to see – particularly when it relates to their sexual health. Because of the doctor-patient privilege, you should not have to worry about your doctor revealing your private information. If he or she does, then you likely have the right to sue.
Medical Records
Patients are also protected with the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This is supposed to insure each individual patient’s privacy rights. The HIPAA Security Rule concerns electronic health information. U.S. medical and hospital personnel are not allowed to share your electronically stored records or personal information with anybody who is not qualified to receive the information.
The Privacy Rule is balanced so that the disclosure of health information is permissible as long as it involves patient needs and care.
Despite health privacy laws, there are still many individuals who are rightly concerned about the privacy of medical records. Whether it is compromised databases, overreaching insurance companies, or some other snoopy party there are many possible threats even from discloures of seemingly innocuous information. Would you really want anyone to find out what you are allergic to? That could pose a significant health risk if they decided to act nefariously.

Separate Rules for Financial Records

HIPAA does not cover everything. Generally, your financial privacy and records, as well as credit card transactions do not fall under the privacy policies. Financial companies and even creditors can still find information about your financial records – the doctors you pay, where you fill your prescriptions, and perhaps much more.
Due to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, financial organizations and insurance companies can still operate as a single entity. What you do get is a notification about the sharing policies of such institutions. That said, financial institutions are supposed to provide you with the opportunity to opt-out of third party information sharing. Unfortunately, many people do not know this. And in any case, if these institutions are operating as a single entity, they may be able to legally share your financial information with their insurance division or subsidiary.

When It Comes to Paying Medical Bills, Cash Is King

If you do not want the privacy of your medical records or financial transactions related to them to be discovered, then you will need to take proactive action to protect your privacy. You could always try paying with cash.
If there is any part of the hospital or doctor’s office visit that the insurance company will not pay for, then you could pay for the remainder with cash or business credit card in the name of an LLC. Many doctors’ offices will give discounts to patients paying with cash, because it eliminates their need to pay the credit card company’s transaction fees, deal with potential collection companies with bad debts, file an insurance claim, etc.
Another thing you can do is order your prescription medications online. Online pharmacies can be particularly helpful if you have prescriptions for potentially embarrassing conditions.