Do you know how secure your medical records are?

By now most of us are familiar with the privacy practices at our doctor's office. It seems almost annually we have to sign the disclosure stating we are familiar with it. But what does that all mean and what is HIPAA that law that these privacy practices are based on?

In a really summarized version, HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Title I protects health insurance coverage for workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs. Title II (aka the Administrative Simplification (AS) provisions) requires the establishment of national standards for electronic healthcare transactions, and identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employers. It basically helps people keep their information private. HIPAA applies to medical information as well as financial and payment information. Wikipedia has a good definition of the privacy rules

Why am I writing about HIPPA today? Because I keep getting medical faxes on my home phone. It seems someone at a local doctors office can't keep the phone exchanges straight and gives out my home phone number as their fax number. So I keep getting calls from fax machines. I have an all-in-one which is not normally connected to the phone so when the fax calls I have to move the printer to the kitchen, disconnect the kitchen phone and hook up the all-in-one to find yet another medical fax. Why do I do this? If I don't then the fax machine calls me repetitively every 20 minutes for the entire day. I've called them several times and they seem angry at me. All I did was answer my home phone! The phone I've had for 15 years. To add to this I can share that they also give out their office number wrong and the local library is intermittently getting their office calls as well.

The fax machine has become an important and time-saving office tool. It is one of the fastest ways to transmit data between offices. However medical office staff need to be trained in the importance of privacy and accuracy. I'm sure they are not disclosing to their patients that they are faxing their medical records to my kitchen. Nor should I be responsible for the receipt and proper disposal of someone's medical data. So next time you're at the doctors office ask them how careful they are with the electronic transmission of your personal data.


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