Comments to California Dept. of Public Health: Medical Information Breach Regulations

Consumers enter a hospital or another care facility in California should not have to worry that their health and financial data might end up on a social networking website, in the tabloids, in a dumpster, or in the hands of an identity thief. Yet, instances of the breach of healthcare data in California continue at an alarming pace.

Survey Finds Most Online Pharmacies Do Not Give HIPAA Privacy Notices

Readability consultant Mark Hochhauser, Ph.D., in cooperation with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, conducted a survey of 50 online pharmacy web sites from mid-April through July 9, 2004. Of the 50, a scant 11 sites (22%) included a HIPAA privacy notice as required by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the federal medical privacy rule.

Study Shows Most Online Pharmacies Lack HIPAA Privacy Notice

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC)1, along with readability expert Mark Hochhauser, Ph.D., is writing to call your attention to a recent survey of online pharmacies, and, in particular, the failure of most sites to post a HIPAA Privacy Notice.

In conducting this survey, Dr. Hochhauser visited 50 online pharmacy web sites. Of the 50, only 11 sites (22%) included a HIPAA Privacy Notice. The 11 sites that had a HIPAA privacy notice also posted a web site privacy policy.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Comments Regarding the Use of Personal Medical Data by Financial Institutions

The proposed rule generally prohibits a creditor from obtaining and using medical information for making decisions about a consumer's credit eligibility. The rule then makes an exception that allows creditors to obtain and use financial information that happens to be related to medical debts, expenses and income.

Compliance vs. Communication: Readability of HIPAA Notices (Hochhauser)

In April 2003, patients in the US began receiving Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy notices from their doctors, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and other "covered entities" that use their personal health information. As part of the HIPAA regulatory guidelines, privacy notices were to be written in "plain language." They are not.


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