If you have visited a doctor’s office recently; you were probably asked to sign a medical records privacy form before you received care.
The privacy form is part of new regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in April to protect patients’ medical information. Most medical providers, including doctors, hospitals and pharmacies, are required to follow these regulations.
The regulations give patients more control over how their medical and personal information is used by insurance companies and health care providers. All medical records are covered, whether stored on computers or paper, or communicated by speaking.
Several different areas of protection are offered under the new regulations:
□ Better access to medical records.
You have the right to see and have copies of your medical records. Medical providers and insurance companies have up to 30 days to provide you with the records you request and may charge a fee for copying and sending the records to you. If your records contain mistakes, you can ask for a correction.
□ Limited use of your personal medical information.
Health care providers may not share your information with banks, life insurance companies or outside businesses without your permission. Information that providers may use to help treat you, such as your primary care doctor consulting with a specialist, is not covered.
□ Limited use of your information for marketing.
Health care providers must get your permission before sharing your medical information with marketing companies. The regulations do, however, allow doctors to tell you about such things as disease management programs or alternative treatment options.
□ Stronger state laws remain in effect.
Any state law that offers more coverage will not be changed to fit the federal guidelines. Many states have stronger patient protection measures than those in the new federal guidelines.
□ Communication with your doctor remains confidential.
You can request that your doctor, health insurance company or other health care provider take reasonable measures to keep your communications confidential. The provider’s office should honor your request as long as it is reasonable.
If you believe that your health care provider is not following the new federal guidelines, personal injury attorney Chad Feller advises that you file a formal complaint through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by calling (866) 627-7748 or by visiting the department’s Web site at www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/.