Thursday, January 06, 2005

A patient writes about confidentiality

"Confidentiality is an issue that is extremely important to me as a patient, and was even more important to me when I was treated by a psychiatrist. I am curious to know if it is common practice to include psychiatric records in the general medical record at a university student health center, or if most keep those records separate from the general file." This patient tells a harrowing story of her attempt to correct mistakes in her medical record, and to keep her private information confidential.

Confidentiality laws have changed recently, and the best resource is probably the HIPAA website. (HIPAA stands for "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.") Here are some excerpts from their fact sheet.

Providers and health insurers who are required to follow this law must comply with your right to:
Ask to see and get a copy of your health records
Have corrections added to your health information
Receive a notice that tells you how your health information may be used and shared
Decide if you want to give your permission before your health information can be used or shared for certain purposes, such as for marketing
Get a report on when and why your health information was shared for certain purposes

If you believe your rights are being denied or your health information isn't being protected, you can
-File a complaint with your provider or health insurer
-File a complaint with the U.S. Government
You should get to know these important rights, which help you protect your health information. You can ask your provider or health insurer questions about your rights. You also can learn more about your rights, including how to file a complaint, from the website at
or by calling 1-866-627-7748; the phone call is free.
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