Personal information and health records need to be protected in the same way one would their credit card information. Legislation and practices such as HIPAA are in place, but there are still steps that the individual should take.
Be Aware When at the Doctor’s Office
At the doctor’s office, one would assume that everything is secure when it comes to health information. This is not always the case, and there are a number of things to look out for.
When signing in at the reception desk, is there simply a sheet of paper that includes everyone’s name and possibly their phone number or email? If so, this is not a good practice since personal information is out in the open.
Does the staff know the procedure for the storage of records and can a receptionist explain how has access to these files. Sensitive medical records should be stored securely and there needs to be procedures in place to ensure there is no unauthorized or unnecessary access.
When at the doctor’s office, there could be the possibility for medical information to be overheard. If the walls of the exam rooms are thin, important medical data could easily be heard by the people in the next room.
Finally, ask the practice regularly for health records. This information should be provided to the patient at no charge. In doing so, it might help to keep the office on their toes.
If there are any concerns about the practice, address them right away or consider finding another doctor.
Know the Policies of the Insurance Company
Medical information needs to go through an insurance company. It is wise to learn about the privacy policies that are in place. Like at the doctor’s office, get a list of departments or job titles of people that have access to medical records. If it seems like a particular department or person should not have access, the patient is within his rights to question this protocol.
Also, check with the insurance company about their record keeping. Is it done in-house or is there an additional company that does this? If there is a third-party, investigate them as well.
Many people turn to online options when it comes to storing personal data as well as medical records. This is a great option as long as the site is secure and trusted. All websites where personal information is being stored should be ‘https’ secure. Additionally, medical sites should be HIPAA compliant. These two things will help to put a person at ease.
If medical bills and information are all being stored electronically, there may not be a need for paper copies. If getting rid of paper bills and documents, ensure that everything is shredded before going into the garbage.
Personal information should remain personal. With a little bit of diligence, a person can easily protect his medical information. It is by no means a matter of being paranoid. In this day and age, it is always best to look out for our best interests.
Debbie Shockley is a medical transcriptionist and guest author at BestDegreePrograms.org, where she contributed to the guide to the best online health information technology degree programs.