Who are you giving access to your health information?

There are many situations where you may be asked to authorize the release of your health information. You may be applying for life insurance, you may want one doctor to see medical records from another doctor, or you may be participating in a clinical trial. But what should you do when you are asked to sign a form authorizing the release of your personal health information to someone who isn’t your doctor or health insurer?

We recently spoke with Jane*, a pregnant woman who was asked to sign an authorization to release her personal health information to a pharmaceutical company before getting a prescription she needed to help insure the well-being of her and her unborn child. The doctor’s office called her and said she’d need to download and fax a HIPAA authorization form before she could get her medication. She didn’t think much of it until she downloaded the form and read it. A few things didn’t add up.

Jane believed that she was required to sign before getting her prescription, but the form said signing was voluntary. She also thought HIPAA protected medical information in any setting (spoiler alert: it doesn’t), but the agreement stated that any personal health information the pharmaceutical company obtained from her doctor would no longer be protected by HIPAA. She wasn’t sure whether to sign, so she contacted us to learn more about her options.

Ultimately, it’s your choice to decide whether the pros of signing an authorization to release your health information outweigh the cons, but here are a few things to look for and consider:

  • Is the authorization voluntary, and what will you give up if you don’t sign?
  • Who is going to have access to your information? Is it one person or a company and all of their affiliates?
  • How long does the authorization last? A month? A year? Five years? Forever?
  • Can you cancel the authorization if you want?
  • How will your information to be used?
  • May your information be sold to a third party?

 For more information on health and medical privacy, check out our resources.

 Contact us if you have a general question about health and medical privacy or want to share your story.


* Jane’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.