Get A Medical Privacy Check-UP

July 17, 2009


How private is your medical information, and is it insulated from nefarious prying eyes?  Whenever you go to the doctor, dentist, hospital, pharmacy, or contact your health insurer, you are divulging confidential health information that should be protected from getting in the wrong hands.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires health care providers to take measures to protect your medical privacy.  If your medical history is an open book for all to see, now is the time to start a new chapter, and take steps to ensure your privacy rights under HIPAA.

Assert Your Prescribed Rights

Next time you go to the hospital, see your doctor or pharmacist, or speak with your health plan, you will be given a privacy notice.  This notice will explain their privacy practices, and how your health care provider will use, share, and disclose your personal medical information.  You will also be asked to complete authorization forms that will give you the right to consent to, or opt out of having your health information disclosed or shared with family members, friends, employers, life insurers, marketing firms, or other third parties.  These privacy notices and authorization forms can be lengthy, convoluted, and confusing. Read and understand the fine print, and if you have questions, do not hesitate to speak with your health care provider before you agree to sign them.  If you are admitted into the hospital, you can choose to not be listed in the hospital’s directory.  This directory usually has the patient’s name, condition, and room number.  Caveat, if you opt to not be listed, this will mean that friends, family members, or well-wishers will be unable to find out anything about you.  Also, do not count on having any cards, balloons, or flowers delivered to your hospital room.  If you want your health care provider to be able to discuss your medical information with your spouse, friend, or family member, be sure to sign a consent form that authorizes your doctor, pharmacist, or health plan to share and discuss your information with them.  You also want to make sure that your medical power of attorney provides that your medical information that is protected by HIPAA may be disclosed to your designated agent in your power of attorney.   You can also request that your provider send your health information to a particular address, or that they contact you at a particular number.

Check Up On Your Privacy

Under HIPAA, you have the right to see and obtain copies of your medical records.  It is good medicine to exercise this right to insure that your records are accurate.  If you do discover inaccuracies in your records, you can ask to have them corrected.  You should be provided access to your records within thirty days, and you may be charged for the cost of copying and delivery.  If you believe that your privacy rights have been violated under HIPAA, you should contact your health care provider, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights at: 1-800-368-1019. For more detailed information about HIPAA access:, or call the HIPAA Hotline at: 1-866-627-7748.

Consumer Alert: Be extra vigilant if you opt to divulge your personal information on surveys, health screenings, sweepstakes, or on health web sites.  Always, look at the privacy policy, and ask how your information will be used and accessed.

Please send your legal and consumer questions to, or write to 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1C-46Philadelphia, PA 19130, Tel: 215-765-4828, Web Address:

© Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Elisha Hoffman Abrams and LegallyInformed’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.