Americans flee traditional health coverage because of privacy concerns

Did you know your medical privacy is seriously compromised when you sign that clipboard form at the doctor’s office? That’s because the standard privacy agreement you sign actually contains a catastrophic clause, one that forces doctors to release your records to government officials on demand.

And what makes it even worse,  there’s is no legal obligation for them to notify you when they hand over your data.

Let’s face it. We know that most computers can be hacked. Hacking is a sophisticated business, one that reaps many benefits for the online criminals known as black-hat hackers.

Image: Public domain. Various methods have been used to protect patient’s privacy. This drawing by Jacques-Pierre Maygnier (1822) shows a “compromise” procedure, in which the physician is kneeling before the woman but cannot see her genitalia.

And imagine how much value there is on your doctor’s files? No one wants their personal medical data shared with non-medical strangers — and especially not with the government. And criminals can get in access services that YOU will end up paying for.

Yet the fact remains, doctors computers, the ones that electronically store our medical files are easily hacked.

Often it’s the black-hat hackers who are looking to steal something and let you and your insurance company pay for it. But increasingly, hospitals are starting to buy records of a patient’s credit card history. They say it’s so they can understand your lifestyle choices but in reality it’s so they can find out what they can use to dodge payments in the future.

So there’s plenty to be worried about. So much in fact, that these privacy concerns are starting to impact the care that some people receive.

Consumers tend to be alert to the problem. In a survey, 75% of respondents described themselves as “concerned” about the security of their medical data. And 10% of these people said they didn’t tell healthcare providers everything because they believed that the information was too sensitive to risk hacking. They didn’t want it entered into any records that might get stolen.

Which means that not every patient is getting the exact treatment they need. Because they are scared of their privacy being compromised, one out of every ten patients is being under-treated.

It’s a public health crisis waiting to happen — if it’s not already under way. All because government bureaucrats worked the system so that they could access our private and most personal information.

And that’s just the patients that actually go to see doctors.

Every year millions of people skip medical treatment entirely. In part because of privacy concerns.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that half a million people have received a delayed cancer diagnosis. Not because of poor quality care, but because they put off going to see their doctor due to privacy concerns. Two million live with undiagnosed mental illness for the same reason.

It’s not like government officials are unaware of these issues. But they’ve been slow to make real headway in providing better protection for your health records. Given the U.S. government’s penchant for gathering data on its citizens, I’m not surprised.

And I’m not holding my breath that the situation will change any time soon. If anything, I expect it will continue to grow worse under Obamacare.

Don’t Choose Between Your Privacy and Your Health

Remember, your privacy is not as important as your health, even if it means a few salty truths are on the line. But there are ways to protect yourself. Talk to your doctor about the issues. Ask him where your information might be shared.

Ask if he is participating in any research projects. Ask if the information is shared with non-doctors who are not bound by the same rules of confidentiality. Ask about his staff. See if he will leave your more worrying or embarrassing issues in your paper file and not transfer them to your computer records.

Read the small print of your privacy form carefully, challenge what you’re unhappy about, get them to change it and initial your changes so it’ll prove you asked for them to be made. This protects both you and your practitioner. However, there is no way out of a demand by the government unless you challenge it in the courts. .

And always, just like you check with Experian or one of the other credit rating agencies watch year, ask your doctor for a copy of your medical records. Check it for inaccuracies and potentially embarrassing or incriminating entries report them to your doctor and insurance company immediately. If the doctor’s system gets hacked, you don’t want to be publicly humiliated or blackmailed.

If your identity has been compromised, your health history may reflect conditions you don’t actually have. That can be dangerous for you. And expensive, too. If you notice inaccuracies, report them to your doctor and your insurance company right away. You will have to request the changes in writing. Your healthcare provider will then either correct your records or disagree. If they disagree, you have a right append a statement to your records saying why you think they are wrong.

It’s up to you. The Government will not protect you. Your doctor may be unable to protect you. It’s down to you to do your very best to ensure your personal and private medical data are never compromised.