It's inevitable that absolutely all of your health records will be available online for you, your doctor, and for potentially lots more people. There are a slew of companies now like Google, Microsoft, Aetna, and WellPoint who are working to provide ways to help you (the consumer) digitally manage your health records. They are touting it as a "consumer empowerment tool." Sounds all fancy and exciting, no?
But, and this is a trunk full of loads of unknown junk, the privacy protection surrounding your health records is not all cut and dry and simple. You may think that just because a record is "medical" or "health" related it is automatically protected with privacy policies. Oh no!
You may have heard of HIPPA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which will provide privacy and security protection for your health records, but this protection is only covered for records covered by protected entities like health-care providers, health insurers, health-care clearing houses, such as billing services, and business associates, such as companies that administer health plans.
Tech companies like Google and Microsoft are not HIPPA covered because they are only providing the digital means to manage your records. They are a technology service not a health service. They can have in their privacy policies clauses that are similar to the HIPPA laws but they can change them at any moment because a company can change their policies whenever they want to.
There is an interesting report put out by The World Privacy Forum that illustrates in more detail how not all "Personal Health Records" companies (PHRs as they call it) are HIPPA protected. It is great food for thought. There are lots of things that I never would have thought of like linkage between your different doctors or health stays like rehab. If you are not careful or aware of the privileges you allow, your dentist can see all your rehab records, your GYN can see that you were treated with anti-depressants and see your psychiatrists records, and stuff like that.You may not want all your health professionals knowing EVERYTHING about you.
You as a consumer need to educate yourself about your health records online and what it means. The idea of having all your health records online sounds like it would make life easier, faster, and more organized. Because many people are not tech savvy, or privacy protection savvy, and the laws governing health records online are all in their infancy, there is also so much room for doubt, error, and confusion. So, time to weigh-in...
Your Two Cents: Does the idea of your health records online with greater accessibility possibilities make you excited or cause you concern because you are not sure really what is involved with privacy protection?