Electronic medical records are here, but does that mean we no longer will have privacy?
Could a previous illness cost you a new job promotion? Can employers get access to their employee's medical records? How about before a person is hired, will their medical history come in to play? What if you choose not to vaccinate, will your insurance refuse to cover your child for the measles?
Lots of questions, and here is the answer:
The rules on privacy for EMR (electronic medical records) are complex and tangled, but needless to say, insurance companies do get access to your records. However, the business which retains the insurance company is not supposed to be getting access to the records, but they are.
The digitization of the medical record makes your privacy at minimum vulnerable, and at maximum open to the employer. There are laws, but in my opinion they are not to be counted on.
As a physician, here is what I recommend you do to protect your privacy, as well as protect your future insurance premiums...
Change your insurance to a higher deductible policy, and see a physician who does not take insurance, or who works with insurance on a limited basis.
Ask your physician or practitioner which, billing codes he or she is using to describe your illness.
For example, lets say you go to the doctor for a sore throat and the doctor checks the code for lymphoma instead of lymphadenopathy by accident. That code for lymphoma, may stay with you your entire career affecting insurance premiums and potential employment. Lymphadenopathy is just swollen glands, which can be normal with a sore throat. Instead, your insurance company thinks you may have cancer.
Be careful with medical and health savings accounts.
These programs seem neat on the surface, but read the fine print. Sometimes the deal means that by participation, you give up your privacy.
Get a copy of your electronic chart emailed to you. Check it for accuracy.
Consider asking for a paper chart, especially if you are seeing a cash pay physician.
You still have a right to privacy. I will keep you posted on techniques to protect you and your family as we discover them.