NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

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.

For text


Browse more articles on Health Issues