Millions Drop Health Coverage Due to Privacy Invasion
You know your medical privacy is in danger.
The standard privacy agreement you sign at every doctor’s office contains a little-known clause. The clause allows doctors to release your records to government officials when requested. And they don’t even have to notify you when they do.
Your electronically stored medical files can easily be hacked. Usually by freeloaders looking to get something for nothing. They let you and your insurance company foot the bill.
And hospitals are starting to pay for records of your credit card purchases. They want to better “understand” your lifestyle choices.
There’s plenty to be worried about. So much in fact, that these privacy concerns are starting to impact the care that some people receive.
75% of Patients Think
Their Privacy is in Danger
Consumers are aware of the problem. In a survey, three out of every four people described themselves as “concerned” about the security of their medical data.
A full ten percent of respondents reported withholding information from healthcare providers. The information was sensitive. They didn’t want it entered into records that might be shared or stolen.
Ten percent may not sound like a lot. But think about that. With one out of every ten patients, doctors are working without all the information. This could easily turn into a public health crisis. All because bureaucrats at every level play fast and loose with our most personal data.
And that’s just the patients that actually go to see doctors.
Every year millions of people skip medical treatment entirely. In part because of privacy concerns.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that half a million people have received a delayed cancer diagnosis. Not because of poor quality care, but because they put off going to see their doctor due to privacy concerns. Two million live with undiagnosed mental illness for the same reason.
It’s not like government officials are unaware of these issues. But they’ve been slow to make real headway in providing better protection for your health records. Given the U.S. government’s penchant for gathering data on its citizens, I’m not surprised.
And I’m not holding my breath that the situation will change any time soon. If anything, I expect it will continue to grow worse under Obamacare.
Don’t Choose Between Your Privacy and Your Health
When you weigh your privacy against your health, your health is the more important thing to protect. That means answering your doctor’s questions honestly. Even if the answers are embarrassing. It also means seeking care as soon as you notice a problem. Even if you have privacy concerns.
But also know that your privacy concerns are legitimate. And you can take steps to protect your medical records from prying eyes and medical identity thieves.
The first thing to do is talk to your doctor. Let him know you are concerned. Ask about the ways your health information might be shared. Ask what steps are taken to preserve your personal privacy if they share any data for research purposes.
Whenever you receive a privacy agreement, read it through. Don’t skip the fine print. If there is anything you object to, request to change the language and initial your changes.
Finally, request a copy of your medical records. Just like you review your credit history once a year for inaccuracies, you should also review your medical records annually for the same reasons.
If your identity has been compromised, your health history may reflect conditions you don’t actually have. That can be dangerous for you. And expensive, too. If you notice inaccuracies, report them to your doctor and your insurance company right away.
It’s also possible that your doctor or hospital has entered information into your medical records that is not correct. To fix your medical records, you must make a request in writing. Your healthcare provider will either agree to correct your records or will disagree. If they disagree, you have a right amend your records with a statement about why you think they are incorrect.
Like so many other things in this country, protecting your medical privacy from identity thieves and nosy government bureaucrats is something that falls to you. Use these steps to ensure your personal health information is as secure and private as possible.