What Really Is Private?

We think everything in our medical records is private, but is it?  Why do health insurers and life insurers get to peruse it at will?  I think about that before I click that stupid EMR button with a CPT code that drags along side someone for life.    A recent USA Today article reveals that a “growing number of hospitals use their patients’ health and financial records to help pitch their most lucrative services, such as cancer, heart and orthopedic care”.   Don’t get me wrong, much of this can be good.  My hospital scans its records to get people to show up for colonoscopies, DEXA scans, and abdominal ultrasound screening.   Of course, they make a ton of money  from the procedures so its obviously not totally altruistic.  It also can be problematic,  like the time a patient called me to yell and complain about sending her a letter to get a mammogram.  I should have known about her double mastectomy.  At first, I didn’t know what she was talking about but then I realized that the hospital sends out these special letters with my name on it.   But let’s get past the problem with mistakes and embarrassments.  Is it ok for hospitals use private medical records to pursue profits?  The article states that many hospitals are targeting those patents with money so they are actually cherry picking.   Not cool.  I guess my issue with this is when mailings are not sent to everyone or are sent out to people for unproven screenings.   For example, if CT scans for screening smokers is not an approved test then hospitals shouldn’t send out a “special cash deal” option which capitalizes on their fears.  The whole thing is creepy, though.  As we doctors try harder and harder to follow HIPAA, letters are flying out to patients with our names on them and we are not in control of what is written.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  2 comments for “What Really Is Private?

  1. DefendUSA
    February 16, 2012 at 9:01 am

    That would tick me off, if I were a physician as well. I don’t think that can ever be a good thing…it makes you look incompetent for one, and you don’t need that in this day and age.
    I wish I could just go dark on all technology, to have privacy, but it just won’t fly. I have even reverted back to writing real cursive filled letters because it is the only way nobody can misconstrue what I say. Sad, but true.

  2. CancerDoc
    February 13, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Color me skeptical. I slowly watch our EMR populate with new “clicks.” When I have asked, I have been told that they are required to fulfill “meaningful use” criteria. Does it really matter if a woman sent to me for metastatic lung cancer is up to date on her dexa scan, mammography or colon screening? Not to pull rank, but shouldn’t my time as a specialist be devoted to focusing on the issue that the primary care physician request that I evaluate and not on health screening issues? As I watch this “meaningful use” populate the EMR, I am quite convinced that it has nothing to do with practicing better medicine, but more creating a data field for the government (medicare/medicaid) and insurance companies to harvest. Kudos to your hospital for figuring out how to trump them (written tongue in cheek).

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