PRC Launches California Medical Privacy Microsite

What are your rights to medical privacy? As it turns out, that is not a simple question to answer. Chances are, you've heard of HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It is a federal law that sets a national baseline standard for the privacy of individually identifiable health information.

But HIPAA only applies to health care providers that conduct certain transactions electronically, health plans, and health care clearinghouses. A great deal of personal medical information exists that is not maintained by HIPAA “covered entities.” An example would be personal medical information provided voluntarily when one participates in an online chat forum for individuals with a specific ailment.

Fortunately for individuals who live in California, state law provides additional medical privacy protections. The PRC has launched a microsite dedicated solely to medical privacy in California.

Medical Privacy: Cases from the PRC Log Files

December 31, 1969
December 31,1969

Ten years ago he was told by his doctor to watch his weight and reduce his consumption of alcohol, which he did. But the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) file had him coded as a drug abuser (the database shared by 750 insurance companies, containing medical information on about 1 in 10 adults).

How Medical Faxes Have Been Sent to My Home by Mistake

December 31, 1969
December 31,1969

For the past 4 years I have been receiving faxes at my home that were most likely meant for a medical clinic since my number is 1 digit off from their phone fax number. I spoke with HIPAA [Office of Civil Rights, the complaint office for medical complaints under HIPAA] awhile ago, and they instructed me to just throw away any patient information in the trash and that I was not liable for that information in any way. Today I was sent another fax from a medical supply place and had to tell them to stop trying to send me a fax at 5:00 in the morning. Apparently, I was in their phone number data base and the information in the fax was set on auto redial. You can only imagine what a pain that is. If you take your phone off the hook the phone company has made it so it keeps buzzing to tell you to put your phone BACK on the hook.

Ten Privacy Principals for Health Care

Health-related information that we share with doctors and others is among the most intimate and sensitive of all personal information. In addition to information about physical health, these records may include information about family relationships, sexual behavior, substance abuse, and private thoughts and feelings related to mental health.

Yet, as privacy advocate Evan Hendricks put it, video rental records in this country are afforded more privacy protection under law than are medical records.

PRC Comments on Proposed HHS - Medical Records Privacy Rule

Even though the proposed rule lays the foundation for the implementation of fair information principles, it takes several steps backward and gravely endangers patient privacy in a number of areas, explained below. Because of the significant shortcomings of the proposed rule, in addition to the relatively limited opportunity for individuals to have been apprised of and comment on the rule, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that the proposed rule be withdrawn and redrafted.

Regarding the Privacy Implications of the Proposed National Health Information Network (NHIN)

The proposed National Health Information Network embodies a presidential mandate to bring information technology to healthcare by making complete patient records available to providers, regardless of location.

In responding to the questions asked in the RFI, we will discuss matters of privacy and security, and also whether standardization of healthcare information may ultimately be detrimental to patient treatment.

Albertsons' Pharmacies: Complaint for Violations of CA Business and Professions Code Sections 17200, et seq.

Albertsons promotes their access to its customers'/consumers' confidential medical information to pharmaceutical companies anxious to increase the name recognition and sale of their drugs. Albertsons secretly enters into commercial arrangements with pharmaceutical companies willing to pay to participate in the Drug Marketing Program. Albertsons then allows these pharmaceutical companies to participate in using the consumers' medical information for direct marketing (either directly by Albertsons or through direct marketing services companies) that increases the sale of targeted drugs. The pharmaceutical companies fully finance the Drug Marketing Program.

Privacy Rights and the Marketing of Confidential Medical Information: Questions and Answers on the Case of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) v. Albertsons

Albertsons collects its customers’ confidential medical information by surreptitiously reviewing customer prescriptions - required to be kept confidential and used only as authorized by the patient - and creates a retrievable database including customer addresses, phone numbers and drug regimen. The information is made available for use to satisfy pharmaceutical companies willing to pay Albertsons to fulfill drug marketing objectives. The result is unsolicited mailings and/or phone calls directed at consumers attempting to convince them to buy more or different medications.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse Files Lawsuit Charging Albertsons Violates Privacy of Pharmacy Customers

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a San Diego-based nonprofit consumer information and advocacy organization, today announced that it has filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court charging supermarket giant Albertsons and its pharmacy units, SavOn, Osco, and Jewel-Osco, with violating the privacy rights of thousands of its customers by illegally using their confidential prescription information to conduct targeted marketing campaigns on behalf of drug companies.

Have You Received Unsolicited Marketing Letters or Phone Calls Regarding Your Personal Prescriptions? Tell us!

Some patients who get their prescriptions filled through supermarket pharmacies and chain drug stores such as Albertson's, Walgreens, RiteAid, SavOn and CVS may be surprised to get a solicitation in the mail that looks like a friendly reminder to refill their prescription.

If you've received a solicitation in the mail or a phone call from your pharmacy or a marketer working on behalf of the pharmacy suggesting that you switch to another brand of drug or that you talk to your doctor about a refill, please let us know.


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