Physician-patient privilege waived in fraud probe

An Ohio Supreme Court ruling could erode certain confidentiality protections afforded to patients’ medical records, physicians say.

The case centered on whether a health insurer could discover patient records to support a billing fraud claim it brought against a doctor. Family physician William Schlotterer, DO, objected to providing his patients’ records to Medical Mutual of Ohio, saying the documents were protected by the physician-patient privilege unless the insurer obtained the patients’ consent.

The patients involved were not a party to the lawsuit, and the high court affirmed that, absent patients’ authorization, medical records are generally protected from disclosure under state law. Because Dr. Schlotterer’s patients already consented to release their medical information to Medical Mutual when they signed on for coverage, however, judges found the physician-patient privilege did not apply.

Read more in American Medical News.

The court opinion is available online (pdf). The case is Med. Mut. of Ohio v. Schlotterer.

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