Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not So Confidential

We talk a lot about threats to your medical privacy. But one of the most recent incidents was something straight out of the "Believe It or Not" file. Back in April, a box of hospital statements fell off the back of a delivery truck in Cleveland, scattering 3,000 confidential patient records over the downtown streets and sidewalks of the city. The documents contained patient names, home addresses, insurers and policy numbers, the names of treating physicians, admission and discharge dates, and detailed billing information. Obviously, there's nothing those poor folks could have done to prevent their private records from becoming tumbleweed in downtown Cleveland: Sometimes circumstances are just plain out of your control. But it is important to take every measure you CAN to safeguard your medical privacy. One way to do that is to fill out a "Declaration of Medical Privacy Intent" form. This form was created by the Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC) -- a non-profit organization that promotes the right of each individual to control his health care decisions. You can print one out from their web site (www.cchconline.org), fill in the appropriate information, and then instruct your doctor, psychologist, pharmacist, and insurance companies to include the form with your permanent records. Unfortunately, a "Declaration of Medical Privacy Intent" can't guarantee your privacy, but it is a good way to make your position known to every person who opens your file.

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