Your Electronic Health Record, Your Privacy, and You

Mrs. Dr. Tom has a bad back.


She’s been to the doctor any number of times.


Exercises, shots, anti-inflammatories.


She’s trying them all.


But not braces.


That’s why I was stunned to get a call from a number in San Diego asking me if she needed a back brace.


The guy said her insurance company suggested it.


Welcome to deep data.


You know that bunch of papers you sign every time you seek medical care?


Well some of them give your insurance company the right to share your data for marketing purposes.


How can I be sure?  Because while researching my upcoming book on telemedicine, I’ve been offered jobs as the doctor who orders the braces once the salesmen closes the deal. And they openly told me where the information comes from.


That’s right, your insurer, your health system sells your data—just like your credit card company and Facebook does.


And anyone within the industry who says this is untrue is either sticking up for their employer or being impossibly naive.


Some experts believe that soon your medical information will be more profitable for your insurer and medical provider than your premiums and co-pays.


There’s no real way around it.  If you’re going to have someone else pay your medical bills, they’re going to find a way to profit from your medical record.


My advice?


If you have a medical problem that you want to keep out of the system, use a fake name and pay cash.


Insist that your clinicians keep the information out of the electronic medical record.


I know several providers employed by large systems who informally do just this.  I guarantee that their employers know nothing about it—they would be fired for sure.


In my mind, they are true physicians, putting themselves and their livelihoods at risk in service to their patients.


Better yet, find a direct primary care clinician who still uses paper charts, or jump drives.


Either way, you now have to take direct action to keep your medical information out of your consumer profile.


Otherwise, you can be sure that once you see your doctor for your herpes, an add for condoms will appear on your facebook page the very next day.


You are not a commodity.  Find a clinician who won’t treat you as one.