Medical Privacy Forms Raise Questions
Forms that outline the medical privacy rule under HIPAA "essentially detail[s] the many ways a doctor can use and disclose medical information - often without a patient's consent or knowledge" - and many patients who visit physician offices, hospitals and pharmacies mistakenly "assume signing somehow protects their privacy," according to the Wall Street Journal.
Critics say the rule allows providers "to put medical information to myriad uses," the Journal reports. For example, providers can hire outside companies to survey patients on customer satisfaction or hire third-party marketers to advertise their products.
Although the rule allows patients to extend restrictions on the use of their medical records through written agreements, providers do not have to agree to the terms under federal law. In addition, although violation of the rule can result in fines, the Office for Civil Rights, which received more than 22,600 complaints from mid-April 2003 through Sept. 30, to date has not issued any fines.
Karen Hinton, a spokesperson for Patient Privacy Rights, said, "It's impossible to violate HIPAA."
However, Thomas Wilder, vice president for private market regulation at America's Health Insurance Plans said that the rule encourages "the appropriate use of information" and discourages "inappropriate sharing" (Francis, Wall Street Journal, 10/21).