My primary care physician is a partner in a large group practice. I trust him. If I didn’t, I’d change doctors. At my recent check-up, I was given a pamphlet and asked to sign up for an electronic health information network.
Given the litany of health issues I’ve had over the years, I appreciate the benefits of having all my medical information accessible to all the health care providers who might ever need to treat me. But what I read in the fine print in the pamphlet made my hair stand on end. Mice type always makes me skeptical. Seeing more than two paragraphs of it sets off alarm bells. This pamphlet has seven.
My health care life has become complicated enough since Medicare came along. It seems like going electronic could complicate it even more. The mice type starts out innocently enough; paragraph two lays out my HIPA rights. “I understand that health information is protected under federal privacy laws.” Good news. They recognize my right to privacy.
Not exactly. “Providers… that access health information about me… may re-disclose this information to health care providers/organizations… for reasons unrelated to the coordination of my health care and treatment.” Wait a minute. Why would I want my private health laundry aired out for any reasons other than medical ones? Seriously. You might as well say you’ll sell my name for marketing and fund raising purposes. I get enough junk mail already. I don’t need to feed the beast.
If you’re thinking: “That just comes with the territory,” keep reading. It gets even better. “This health information may be re-disclosed to a person or entity that is not… covered by federal privacy regulations, and therefore, is no longer protected by those regulations.”
So let me see if I have this straight. Privacy laws protect health information. However, in order to get better treatment, I need to be OK with giving my health info out to someone who has nothing to do with my treatment. And who, by the way, won’t have to respect my privacy. I’m not surprised to see that behavioral health is one of the areas that might get re-disclosed. I’d have to be certifiable to want to sign up for this.
Wait! Another area that could get disclosed is alcohol abuse. I’ll cop to more than a few glasses of wine a day if that means they’ll tell the local purveyor of spirits that I’m a wino and that gets me an email when Fat Cat Chardonnay is on super sale.
If I work this right, it could actually turn out to my advantage. My mother saw a podiatrist in her later life. I’ll start that now if I can get an occasional free foot massage for those little piggies that go numb when I wear pointy shoes with high heels. (That was never a problem when I was in my prime.) I’ll even spring for a dermatologist if it nets me a jar of high-end fade cream for my age spots. My hands are starting to look like my mother’s and that’s scary.
Hmmm. They also share information on genetic diseases. I’m not sure what all that covers. I know that hypertension runs in my family. I’ve always wanted to try yoga for that. Maybe someone will offer me a discount on classes. Not the yoga with the weird breathing. And not the one that requires even remotely good balance. Just the plain vanilla type where you chant “Om-m-m. Om-m-m. Om-m-m.” (I think that’s Hindi for “I could really go for a glass of Fat Cat right now.”)
Where do I sign?