In this era of electronic information, privacy is a legitimate concern. With so much of our personal data whizzing around the Internet and wireless networks, keeping everything locked down has become a priority. When it comes to medical information, the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was the answer, designed to keep our healthcare records secure.
But, healthcare professionals say, there have been unintended consequences. The restrictions of the law have made it difficult for healthcare professionals to share information easily. And now, in light of the Affordable Care Act, things have become even more complicated.
The ACA now forbids providers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, which eliminates an original impetus for HIPAA’s creation – keeping medical conditions secret to avoid denial of coverage. Now, these same restrictions are making it tougher for patients to share information with each other and with their providers.
Each time a person wants to share a piece of health-related information, he or she must click OK on a popup window, which can be annoying and cumbersome. This annoyance could lead patients to frustration and dissuade them from sharing that information, even though many physicians feel that the sharing of information can be beneficial to patients, allowing them to lend each other support.
“When people are willing to share their personal choice they are going to be a lot more participatory and engaged and have a daily dialogue about it,” Josh Stevens, chief executive of Keas, a San Francisco-based corporate wellness program provider, tells The Wall Street Journal. “If you have people you trust—colleagues, family–going through the same challenges and afflictions, you are far more likely to follow through.”