Privacy and Health Care

In my post on gun control and schools, I asserted that “I worry that reducing privacy around mental health care is going to deter people who need health care from getting it.”

However, I didn’t offer up any evidence for that claim. So I’d like to follow up with some details from a report that talks about this in great detail, “The Case for Informed Consent” by Patient Privacy Rights.

So let me quote two related numbers from that report.

First, between 13 and 17% of Americans admit in surveys to hiding health information in the current system. That’s probably a lower-bound, as we can expect some of the privacy sensitive population will decline to be surveyed, and some fraction of those who are surveyed may hide their information hiding. (It’s information-hiding all the way down.)

Secondly, 1 in 8 Americans (12.5%) put their health at risk because of privacy concerns, including avoiding their regular doctor, asking their doctor to record a different diagnosis, or avoiding tests.

I’ll also note that these numbers relate to general health care, and the numbers may be higher for often-stigmatized mental health issues.

One thought on “Privacy and Health Care

  1. Great points, but we need to distinguish between allowing health care professionals to ask about guns and requiring them to record or report the patient’s answer.

    Healthcare professionals should not have our hands tied by being told we’re violating laws if we ask about guns. By the same token, I don’t want to be deputized or have a tin star where I become an agent of government.

    I think if you want to take a look at NYS’s new gun control law, there’s more there to be concerned about because of the new obligations it imposes on us. I’m still wading through it and have reached out to my private practice attorney to get clarification on what it really means and how we might have to change our HIPAA privacy notices.

    I think this is really more of a concern for those of us in mental health care because so many people already avoid seeking help for fear of stigma. If they become afraid that they might lose their guns or be reported as a risk, even more may avoid seeking help. I didn’t see that as a real risk just because of Obama’s comments and memoranda, but it is a real risk when we look at state laws or what Congress might propose.

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