Keeping Medical Records Private
April 11, 2003
Starting Monday, tough new medical privacy rules take effect. Seven years in the making, they are a much-needed improvement over the existing system, which left sensitive information at the mercy of a patchwork of state protections.
In spite of some minor annoyances, the new protections include significant changes that will curb past abuses:
- For the first time, patients will have the right to get a copy of their medical records, review it for accuracy and correct errors.
- Employers will no longer be able to examine a worker's medical records without the employee's permission.
- Law enforcement agencies will need a court order to gain access to medical files from a hospital or physician.
- Therapists can refuse to disclose psychotherapy notes to health plans without patients' consent, a right they had lacked.
Privacy is important to patients. Polls show two-thirds fear the improper release of their records, and one in six have acted to keep their medical files private.
Source: Editorial, " A win for patients' privacy," USA Today, April 11, 2003.
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