Sunday, March 20, 2011
Protecting Your Health Privacy, A Citizen’s Guide to Safeguarding the Security of Your Medical Information by Jacqueline Klosek is a comprehensive study of the law as concerns medical privacy. The author is an attorney who specializes in privacy concerns and has published several other related books. More information can be obtained at her website.
The book starts with a thorough review of the major laws governing health privacy, in particular HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) with its updates and the more recently passed HITECH Act. There’s briefer coverage of other laws which also impact medical privacy including the Privacy Act of 1974, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Regulations, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and others. All this is reviewed in a concise and lucid fashion.
The next chapter contains the information that patients need to protect their privacy. It covers all aspects of an individual’s interactions with their medical providers in terms of obtaining access to their medical records and resolving disputes about them. It outlines your right to privacy notices and how to restrict access to your records. Any questions you may have concerning practical ways to obtain and protect your medical information will be answered. Another chapter deals with personal health records, the services that Google, Microsoft and others are now offering patients to consolidate their medical records online and be able to make them available to any provider that needs them. The author is more optimistic than I am that this is a valuable service that will also protect your privacy. I think their potential for abuse is greater than their value, but the information is given for any who are interested.
There is also a section of concern to many, the laws governing employers’ ability to obtain and use your medical records. This affects your employability and your chances for promotion. Also covered are wellness programs at work, employers’ ability to monitor off duty conduct, and employers access to any social networking sites you may use.
A special section also reviews privacy issues when special protection may be needed. The law may or may not afford such protection. This includes mental health issues, addiction, and other socially stigmatized diseases such as HIV. Anyone who suffers from these disorders should be fully aware of the special protection that the law may provide them.
I have stressed the aspects of this book that are most pertinent to individuals seeking their own health care. The book is equally of interest to physicians, other providers, businesses, and attorneys. It could be used as the basis for a comprehensive course. I personally wish the book had been organized a bit differently so that interested individuals would be directed easily to sections of greatest interest to them. Nonetheless I know of no better reference source on this topic.
Posted by Joel Sherman MD at 11:11 AM