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Medical Records are Not Really Private

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Most people think that laws on the books make your medical records private. But that’s not so.

Yes, there is some illusory level of privacy for medical records. Congress passed a law that was supposed to keep a person’s records private. The rules provide that covered entities and their business associates are to assure electronic health information integrity, availability, and confidentiality. But this doesn’t always happen.

It is frightening how much medical information is accessible. Companies earn lots of money collecting and selling your health data.

Here’s an example. Companies out there market themselves as capable of finding information about when and where any particular individual may have received medical treatment. They sell a service that targets medical facilities and asks them to identify if a person they are interested in ever was treated at the facility. If so, they ask for the dates when you were at the facility, when you were treated, and where you filled your prescriptions.

I’m assuming that you thought that nobody could get such information about you.

But people are searching for such information about you, and turning around and selling it.

These companies claim that they do not have to have a medical authorization signed by you to do this kind of search. They claim they’re not seeking information about any specifics of your medical treatment. They argue that where and when you seek care is not privileged or protected. And indeed, the statutes don’t talk about protecting such information.

The fact that people collect and sell medical information about you means that if you’re involved in a car crash, insurance companies will hire companies to canvas different medical providers to find out if you ever sought out their services and, if so, when.

Suppose you decide to run for the school board. Your opponent could hire one of these companies to see if you have ever visited any of the psychiatrists or psychologists within 150 miles of your home address. They could find out somebody by your name attended 35 sessions at the psychologist’s office.

Without your permission, they can’t find out what you talked about at the psychologist’s office. But all they have to do then is run a campaign ad that says, “my opponent went to a psychologist 35 times over the last two years. Is that the type of person you want to be on the school board?”

Bottom line, if you think your medical care is private, you are sorely mistaken.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”