Psychiatrist Among Powerful Voices in Health Care

The psychiatrist who founded and chairs the organization Patient Privacy Rights uses the spotlight recently shined on her to call for stricter protections for medical records.
What does Texas psychiatrist Deborah Peel, M.D., have in common with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. Hillary Clinton? For one thing, all three were voted among the most influential voices in the nation’s health care system.
The readers of Modern Healthcare magazine voted the practicing psychiatrist of 30 years and founder of the foundation Patient Privacy Rights fourth among the 100 “Most Powerful People in Health Care” in August. The sixth annual list was based on 12,600 reader-submitted nominations and final balloting for the 300 most-nominated people. Nearly 265,000 votes were cast.
Peel was listed behind Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association; former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The magazine’s readers said they thought she was more powerful than health heavyweights such as Sen. Edward Kennedy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Bill Gates.
Peel became known through her work with the nonprofit foundation she launched in 2003 in Austin, Texas, after realizing the implications of the privacy rule issued as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The rule “legally authorized more than 4 million entities to use and disclose our personal health information without our consent and over our objections,” she said in an interview with Psychiatric News.
Those users of health record information can include financial institutions or employers, who could use what they read in the records to reject loan applicants or job seekers, for example.
“Information technology companies’ business models are based on selling the patient data entered with their software, because [those data are] so valuable,” Peel said.

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