The relationship between patient and physician should be an iron-clad, private one. Over the years, the federal government instituted HIPAA, which supposedly ensures patient privacy. However, those of us who deal with this law daily, know that the only thing HIPAA accomplishes is to reduce access to needed medical information, and diminish a physician’s ability to care for their patient.
A recent report in Bloomberg News documents the ongoing data collection efforts by large hospital systems and insurers, with the help of our friendly credit card companies (based on mutual financial benefit, of course). In fact, a new term has been coined just for this – Data Brokers – how appropriate indeed! I also love the concept of “risk scores” for patients, that large hospital systems can use to pressure doctors employed by them, to confront their patients, armed with information collected via snooping.
Beware, you donut-shoppers or burger-devourers; make sure you don’t scan your credit card or store loyalty card when you buy these items, or be ready to be confronted at your next office visit.
My advice to patients – please choose a doctor in independent practice for all your health care needs, using large hospitals only for those episodes of care which require in-hospital treatment; and always question your insurer & credit card company about their data-sharing practices, perhaps get this policy in print.
For those of us opposed to the concept of “population health” and “ACO’s”, this is further vindication that “Big Brother” is now so powerful and ever-present around you, the patient, that you are not allowed to get yourself in trouble by picking up a cigarette or a hot dog.
An astute patient interviewed for this article, said: Most of these things you can find out just by looking at the patient and seeing if they are overweight or asking them if they exercise and discussing that with them,” Murry said. “I think it is a waste of time.”
How basic and profound! But, I’d like to remind my patients that this can be much more than just a waste of time – it is a brazen attempt to strip the last vestiges of individual liberty from the people, in the name of “population health”. Of course, we all know what it is about – MONEY AND CONTROL! When hospitals become insurers and vice versa, it is in their best financial interest to control the population that depends on them for their health care.
The article ends with this quote – The strategy “is very paternalistic toward individuals, inclined to see human beings as simply the sum of data points about them,” Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University – the sooner we recognize this trend, the better.
Where is HIPAA when we need her?
Arvind Cavale MD is an endocrinologist in private practice, you can follow Dr. Cavale on Twitter @endodocPA.
Photo by 401(K) 2013