Private Health Information Isn’t Really Private

Right now HIPAA allows your private medical information to be shared many times by hundreds of thousands of people. The way the rules are now HIPAA for the purpose of your treatment, bill collecting, law enforcement and your employer.

All that seems reasonable. HIPAA, for example, allows your doctor to discuss your case with, say, a radiologist if you require an X-ray for an ankle injury. But as things stand now, HIPAA regulations also allow your medical information to be shared by hundreds of thousands of people without your knowledge — health care-related companies such as drug makers, fund-raisers, law practices, marketers and transcription services. And those businesses can, in turn, share your data with their affiliates.

Your information also could be included in health-care research or public-health programs without your knowledge. Such is the case in New York City, where the Department of Health recently launched a program to monitor the blood-test results of more than 500,000 diabetic New Yorkers — a step to help reduce the some 1,900 diabetes-related deaths in the city each year.

I don’t think that most of us realizes what goes on without our knowledge whether it’s money related, or health related when it comes to our “private” information. We don’t know how many hands such info passes through, but we do know that we get lots of junk mail and letters from who knows where and we don’t always know how they got theirs hands on our information.

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