NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 10, 2008

It\'s not surprising that hospital employees would be interested in the medical records of celebrities like Maria Shriver, Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears and George Clooney.  But famous names may not be the only ones whose medical files are being snooped through, according to two medical experts.

  • Essentially, all medical records -- including the average Joe's -- are up for sale to large corporations, research facilities and drug companies, says Dr. Deborah Peel, founder and chairwoman of Patient Privacy Rights, a non-profit advocacy group in Austin, Texas.
  • By signing a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) consent form, she says, you not only are giving your doctor and insurance company access to your medical records, but you may be giving them permission to sell your information, as well.

HIPAA is both good and bad, says Devon Herrick, a senior fellow and health care economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

"You want to know your information is protected, but if I'm your doctor and I see another doctor who may know more about your condition, and I want to consult with him on your condition, I can't do that without your consent."

Also, many drug companies and researchers buy aggregated information so they can figure out which drugs work and which ones do not, says Herrick.

"The other aspect is commercial," he says.  "Let's say AstraZeneca wants to know about heartburn or GERD.  They want to know what you are taking, so they can sell you their drug."

Source: Jessica Ryen Doyle, "Celebrity Medical Records Hacked: Are You at Risk?" Fox News, April 9, 2008.

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