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Your Medical Records: Who Really Has Access?

HIPAA-Violation-ScanHave you ever asked yourself the question: “Who has access to my medical records?” It’s supposed to be secure. Your medical records are supposed to be protected. For many people, they don’t want anyone knowing they have genital warts or that they were treated for depression five years ago.

Many people believe that those with access to their medical records protect their privacy according to HIPAA rules. Well folks, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but your medical records aren’t as secure as you may think they are. In fact, if you live in Happy’s town, you might even be lucky enough to have ME get access to your medical records without even trying.

You see, my home fax number is very similar to a laboratory fax number in my city. And because of that, every week I’m getting faxes from hospitals and doctors’ office with lab results. I used to call them back to let them know, but so often I’d get put on hold or have to navigate through twenty phone options that I just said “forget it.”

Now when I get these faxes I chuck them. If I feel like taking the time to shred them I may. Otherwise, they go straight into the garbage. Except for the fax I got last week regarding Mary Smith and her condyloma results. 

I figured the OB GYN doctor would want to know that I, a total stranger was calling him to tell him that the fax on his patient Mary, the one with the genital wart, never made it to the laboratory. I didn’t tell him I was a doctor, only that Mary was a good friend of mine and that out of wild coincidence, she would probably want to know why I knew about her warts. With that I hung up.

This doctor’s office should be feared into never making that mistake again. If you’re going to fax something important, you need to double, triple, and quadruple-check the fax number. Thanks to this doctor’s office, I now have proof that Mary has warts and that total strangers like myself have access to your medical records. The next time you call someone in anger and say,  “I never got your fax,” it’s probably because I did.
Who has access to your medical records?  I do.

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

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