Privacy Security and Health Information
Medical Records are created when you receive treatment from a health professional such as a physician, nurse, dentist, chiropractor, or psychiatrist. Records may include your medical history, details about your lifestyle (such as smoking or involvement in high-risk sports), and family medical history.
The Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) sets a national standard for privacy of health information effective April 14, 2003. For the first time, federal law establishes standards for patient privacy in all 50 states, including the right of patients to access their own records. HIPAA provides some protection; it is not the final answer to medical records privacy. Here are some strategies to limit others' access to your medical records.
When you are asked to sign a waiver for the release of your medical records, try to limit the amount of information released. Instead of signing the 'blanket waiver,' cross it out and write in more specific terms. Example of 'blanket waiver': "I authorize any physician, hospital or other medical provider to release to (insurer) any information regarding my medical history, symptoms, treatment, exam results or diagnosis."
Edited waiver: "I authorize my records to be released from (X-hospital, clinic or doctor) for the (date)."
Your medical information is shared by a wide range of people both in and out of the health care industry. Generally, access to your records is obtained when you agree to let others see them. In reality, you may have no choice but to agree to the sharing of your health information if you want to obtain care and qualify for insurance.
Medical information that is not covered by the new federal privacy law might be found in your financial records, your child's school records, and/or your employment files.
Before participating in health screening offered in shopping malls and other public places, find out what uses will be made of the medical information that is collected. If you are not given the opportunity to say "no" to the sharing of your medical information with others, don't participate.
Use caution when visiting health-related web sites and when participating in on-line discussion groups.
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