How to Keep Your Medical Records Private
Some or all of the health information shared with your doctor may also be shared with insurance companies, pharmacies, anonymously to researchers, and—within certain, specific limitations—your employer. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is all the more readily available in this highly-digital culture.
The privacy of your health records is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal law that defines your health information rights and sets rules and limits regarding who is allowed to receive and/or see your health information. A 2018 survey by the University of Phoenix found that one in five healthcare professionals had experienced a breach of patient data at their facility.
Here are our suggestions for how to keep your medical records private.
The number of individuals that seek medical information online through searches continues to grow. Those searches generate targeted marketing opportunities for businesses by embedding cookies (tiny data files) and web beacons (hidden images) that analyze your interests and track your activity when you go to other websites.
To help control this tracking, browse the internet in private or “Incognito” mode. Doing this means that cookies will be deleted once you close browser windows, and your searches won’t be recorded in your browser history. Clearing your browser history on a regular basis will also decrease the ability for third parties to track your online activity.
Check your device settings to see what permissions your apps are requesting. If you’re unsure why the app needs certain information, disable that specific permission. To further secure your electronic devices, use strong passwords and never share them. Use different passwords for different accounts and change them on a regular basis. Be careful with the information you keep on your work computer since it may be accessible by your employer and other staff members.
Limit and Protect Paperwork
More than 50% of patients receive their medical records on paper printouts. Until that document is destroyed, this information is available to anyone who comes into visual range of it. When you receive sensitive medical information from a doctor, hospital, insurance company, or laboratory, keep it in a secure location. If your healthcare provider keeps an online archive of the paper documents you received, have the paper copies shredded to help limit access by unauthorized people.
We tend to share health information widely with friends on social media, but the instant you do that, your information is public. Even if you are sharing with only a select group of friends, once posted, you have no control over who they share it with. Even if your friends are implicitly trustworthy, social media platforms are notorious for privacy breaches. Avoid sharing medical information on social media. Instead, share it privately with only those that need to know.
Heath Insurance Documents
Monitor your insurance documents to make sure that all documented visits, tests, and prescriptions are authentic. Research and report any activity that doesn’t look familiar. Even just one incorrect transaction may indicate your medical identity has been stolen.
Protecting your medical records and information will help protect your identity and your health. Be intentional about implementing each of the above safeguards.
Richards & Richards is a NAID AAA Certified shredding company that offers walk-in and drop-off shredding in Nashville so you can have your unwanted medical records securely shredded. To get the confidence that comes from secure shredding, give us a call at 615-242-9600 or complete the form on this page.