Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Should Doctors Be Banned From Asking If A Patient Owns A Gun?

Via an article entitled “Proposed Law Would Ban Docs From Asking If Patient Owns Gun” from First Coast News:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban doctors from asking their patients if they have a gun in the home.

Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said he has heard of a number of cases in which doctors asked their patients that question, which he thinks should be off limits.

“What we don’t want to do is have law-abiding firearm owners worried that the information is going to be recorded and then sent to their insurance company,” he said. “If they’re on Medicaid maybe it’s sent to the government. If the overreaching federal government actually takes over health care, they’re worried that Washington, D.C. is going to know whether or not they own a gun and so this is really just a privacy protection.”

Under the legislation, a doctor could face a fine of up to $5 million or be sent to prison for up to five years for asking about guns in the home.

I understand the stated intent as recorded in this news item: Gun ownership is being recorded, lots of things are reported to insurance companies and the government, and this bill is an attempt to keep this information out of those circles, at least as obtained in a doctors’ office where people still believe what they say is between them and their doctor. It should be, but lots of things should be absolute that aren’t. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

WikiLeaks: What It Means For Healthcare Privacy

From the official White House statement yesterday regarding WikiLeaks disclosure of diplomatic cables:

“By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights, but also the lives and work of the individuals. We condemn in strongest terms, the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

No matter what people think of WikiLeaks disclosure of approximately 250,000 classified diplomatic cables to the Internet yesterday with the help of the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and Le Monde, the implications to electronic healthcare information security are significant.

Day in and day out, I type huge volumes of information on my patients on a computer and my fellow physicians do the same. As a result, vast healthcare information warehouses are at the disposal of the government, insurers, and major healthcare institutions eager to become more efficient, strategic, or competitive. We are promised the information is private, confidential, and even stripped of its identifiers for group analysis. It is even protected to remain so by law. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Healthcare’s Facebook

[Recently] the Wall Street Journal‘s front page story exposed a significant privacy breech of online personal information via the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

How could they? Imagine the nerve of marketers using Facebook ID’s to develop profiles on people using little socializing games! Facebook has a privacy policy! I was assured that if I set my privacy settings to “maximum,” this would never happen! To which I say: “Duh!” When it comes to money, people get awfully creative.

So while Facebook grapples with its latest public relations nightmare, we should realize our electronic medical record app vendors are doing exactly the same thing. Worse, it’s perfectly legal, even though each of use has been assured our privacy settings are set to “maximum” through the reassurances of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Security Of Patient Records: The Weakest Link

The Queen of Soul famously wailed about being a link in a “chain of fools.” The lead story in the August 13th Boston Globe tells us about another sort of link in the chain — the weakest link in the chain of custody of patient records.

In brief, a pathology billing service bought out by another service apparently dumped all records more than a year old in a town dump. A Globe photographer taking out his own trash noticed that the paper records (which he was looking at because he thought they ought to be recycled rather than dumped) had identifiable patient data and represented at least four hospitals from across Eastern Massachusetts. Clearly, these records ought to have been shredded or otherwise destroyed before disposal. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »