Notions of privacy are fleeting

Fast Company’s Big Idea on July 29: “CEOs of public companies should be obligated to share their health status with investors.”

The statement is inspired by investors’ concerns about the health of Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

While Fast Company poll respondents resoundingly voted no, the mere fact that the statement was made highlights our culture’s shifting notions of privacy.  Ask anyone on Facebook or MySpace what privacy means to them.

But, medical privacy is a different beast.  Depending upon your health, more important than financial privacy (where lapses can be fixed) and online behavior privacy (where lapses can be blamed on youthful naiveté).  Technological developments have increased those concerns.  While improving patient safety, electronic information also increases accessibility.

The recently passed Medicare bill that prevented fee cuts to physicians also encourages them to adopt e-prescribing. The measure has some groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, concerned.

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog:

In an interview with USA Today, Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, raised a red flag about electronic prescribing: “Any time you put something in a digital format and standardize it, it becomes much more profitable and easy to move those records.”


Electronic records and e-prescribing do raise privacy concerns.  Let us not forget the the same concerns of offline medical information, too.

Later in the day the same blog posted this:

In yet another example of the health industry mishandling private patient records, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia sent some 202,000 explanation of benefits letters to the wrong addresses last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Medical information isn’t “safe” electronically, nor in hard copy form.  It seems the patient has a choice: pick your poison.

One thought on “Notions of privacy are fleeting

  1. Privacy and security is a big deal for medical records. The feds are helping by piloting education projects about HIPAA and other protections for medical records.

    EHR Today at is one of those developed in my state (Louisiana) by a group of people working on a fed grant. It includes various EHR resources and it’s got an FAQ section that is good, (we worked on it!). But there are other sites too at HIMSS, etc. You can protect your records to some degree.


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