Prying eyes

Matt Anderson comments:

In a previous issue, I related a conversation I had with a patient about the electronic medical record (EMR) and described to her the problems of poor documentation and up-coding. My conversation with my patient continued, as I told her about the legal intrusions of her privacy made possible or made easier with the EMR.


I related how the government has even more authority to see your record. The government needs no consent for quality, regulatory and compliance auditing, public health, and fraud and abuse investigations. The police can see your record without a court order if they have any suspicion you may be involved in domestic or child abuse. Exemptions to your consent apply to workers’ comp, national security, the military, and some judicial proceedings.

Even mental health records, the most sensitive information about you, can be legally disclosed without your consent in some circumstances.

Minor revisions to this rule in 2008 notwithstanding, these far-reaching but legal violations of your medical privacy mocks the Oath of Hippocrates in which I pledged to “keep to myself” confidential patient information. Most people know nothing of these legal intrusions into their medical records. The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from searching your house or person without a warrant, but the government needs no warrant and requires no permission from you to access your most private information.

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