Privacy desires ignored

For psychiatrist Deborah Peel, maybe patient privacy and patient consent aren’t identical twins, but they’re sure close relatives.

Not surprisingly, a recent Zogby International poll commissioned by Peel’s not-for-profit Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, Austin, Texas, focuses on patient consent and its relationship to privacy—a unity the federal government has chosen to either ignore or deny.

The 2,000 adult poll respondents reached by Zogby via the Internet put great store in their right to privacy. They cling to the quaint notion that they should be asked before their electronic health records are sent skittering off to unknown users for unknown purposes. See full poll results here.

Silly them.

HHS rulemakers wrote away a key right to privacy eight years ago.

An HHS revision to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule in 2002 stripped away one of the broader authorities giving patients the right to control the flow of their medical information. HHS rulemakers did it by eliminating the right of consent. They took a stringent privacy protection rule and transformed it into a disclosure rule.

There are a lot of bright folks who have warned HHS that this privacy issue broadly—and this HIPAA privacy rule revision, specifically—are going to explode on the healthcare industry. One of the more insistent voices has been Peel’s, but she by no means alone.

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