Privacy still a concern

December 1, 2005

Washington--Even though providers and health plans have made efforts to protect the privacy of individual health records, many Americans fear that personal health information could be disclosed to outsiders, particularly employers. Such privacy concerns could block efforts to develop national health information systems.

WASHINGTONEven though providers and health plans have made efforts to protect the privacy of individual health records, many Americans fear that personal health information could be disclosed to outsiders, particularly employers. Such privacy concerns could block efforts to develop national health information systems.

Two-thirds of Americans are concerned about the privacy of personal health information, according to a recent survey by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). A similar number have a favorable view of health information technology and are willing to share personal health data in order to coordinate care or reduce medical errors. But, most people are largely unaware of their privacy rights and legal protections provided by federal legislation. As a result, more than half fear that employers will access their medical claims information and learn of conditions that could jeopardize promotion or employment. Patients try to protect their privacy by going to another doctor, paying for a test or procedure personally or deciding not to have a certain test.

To achieve the proper balance between privacy and access to health information, privacy advocates urge the Bush administration to take stronger action to enforce existing privacy rules and to require parties developing the health information network to follow privacy rules.