Guess Who’s Viewing Your ‘Confidential’ Medical Records?January 16, 2013
Your health insurance company has access to your bills and charges in order to know what they are paying for. But should they also have access to all of your medical history? They do. And what about pharmaceutical companies who are seeking new clients? They might have access too. In a world where nothing is private, it seems even your most personal information can be bought.
“You sell your privacy for the cost of your care,” says Dr. Steward Segal. This private information is being sold to companies who profile doctors’ prescription habits. It’s all done to boost pharmaceutical sales.
While your identifying information is not supposed to be present in these purchased reports, there may be loopholes. Just ask the people who have received advertising postcards from drug companies specific to their medical condition.
Sure, Big Pharma claims to have your best interests at heart. After all, they only want to know your doctor’s prescribing habits so they can better tailor their drugs to his or her, and your needs. This isn’t about the money; it’s about your health. Actually, if you believe that, well…don’t.
“But wait, doesn’t that HIPAA form I sign mean they can’t sell my information?”
No. That form you sign, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, does concern the privacy of your medical records, but how it is applied and the exceptions to it are confusing at best. In some situations, the information can be used for marketing purposes.
Your personal, ‘confidential’ medical records are given away in a similar fashion to that of giving away your email address. Everyone has likely experienced the bombardment of mystery emails and offers after giving an email address to a single entity.
According to Trisha Torrey:
“An example of when information can be shared for marketing purposes is when a hospital uses its patient list to inform you of a new service it provides, a new doctor who has joined the staff, or a fund raising program. An example of when information cannot be shared without an additional authorization from you is when an insurer who has obtained your information from one of your providers, then uses or sells your information to sell you additional insurance, or another product related to services you have already received. You can see how these examples are confusing, and how the various entities that do have access to your records might take advantage of that confusion. “
The bottom line is that your medical information may not be as private as you would think or as confidential as you would like. But, what’s surprising about that? Everything has a price. As we reported a few months ago, one blogger was able to access the account information of more than 1 million Facebook users for only $5—who knows what your medical records are worth to Big Pharma.