You have a right to keep your records private between you and your doctors. This is called "medical privacy." There are systems to protect your rights, but there are also gaps. At the same time, your doctors and nurses need to share information with each other. And records can be used for important research. The challenge is to protect your privacy and still make sure your caregivers have the information they need.
What You Can Do:
Ask how your records will be kept private before you sign informed consent forms. At some point, a medical researcher may ask to use your health care records. Sharing your health care information with researchers can be a great help to others. It helps answer important questions about breast cancer. But before agreeing to do this, ask:
The answers to these questions can help you make sure your information is used properly.
There are state and federal laws to protect your medical privacy.
Federal privacy regulations to protect patients' medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers took effect in 2003 as part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Patient privacy protections provided by the HIPAA regulations include:
For more information on HIPAA regulations, contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.
In addition, the Health Privacy Project provides a good summary of privacy laws around the country. The Health Privacy Project was founded at Georgetown University, but has since become an independent, non-profit organization. Contact the Health Privacy Project to learn about privacy protections in your state.