Len's Lens: Privacy and Personal Health Information

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD | MedPage Today | December 16, 2015

So you are a health professional or knowledgeable consumer and think you understand the issues surrounding privacy and exchange of personal health information? So did I, until I recently became a patient and had the temerity (or is that foolishness and patience?) to actually read the consent when I went to the outpatient surgical center for a cancer screening procedure.

And what I read was -- to say the least -- disturbing. When it came to sharing my health information, there were no middle options: either it could be shared with other exchanges, vendors, consultants, and others nationwide, or I wouldn't be able to get access when I really needed it -- especially in an emergency situation. Let's just say that wasn't what I was expecting. No "opt in," no limitation to just those who needed the information to provide me medical care, just "all or none."

I don't know if this is typical of similar releases in other healthcare facilities (and I have been advised it is not), but it certainly raises a question about how much we as patients and professionals truly appreciate how much control (or lack thereof) we have over what some consider very private information...