The Next Great Privacy Battle Will Be Fought Over Your Health Data
Now is a good time to rethink who has access to your medical profile
In an initial visit with a health care provider, new patients routinely sign a disclosure form — often without giving it much thought. This document allows for (among other things) doctors to share your medical records, including diagnosis and procedures performed, with your health insurance carrier for reimbursement.
Should you decide not to sign or disclose your health information, technically speaking, medical records cannot be shared with a third party, including your insurance carrier. At that point, any and all expenses incurred become your responsibility.
In 20 years of clinical practice, every patient I’ve treated — with health insurance — has consented and signed the form.
Who wants to pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars when they’ve already purchased health insurance? Plus, doctors and health insurers are bound by law to maintain a certain level of privacy when it comes to medical records. Imagine the implications if such protections didn’t exist and health care providers could simply sell or “share” sensitive information with third parties?
Today, many of us routinely disclose health metrics at the doctor’s office and elsewhere without giving it much thought. We also fail to read disclosures provided by social media sites, fitness applications, tech companies, and affiliated third parties. And yet, understanding the terms and conditions within such disclosures could mean the difference between knowing exactly who can access your health data, who cannot, and whether your information is protected at all.
More than 26 million Americans have now shared their genetic information with ancestry or DNA testing sites, perhaps without fully contemplating whether such results are in fact protected. Sure, it’s exciting to learn where you come from and whether you might have long lost relatives out there — but we should also consider whether it’s in our best interest for a third party, be they health or life insurance providers, current or future employers, to access our genetic makeup.