Book Review: Privacy and Health Care

Working for a health care organization, I must admit that I have at times wondered what all the hoopla regarding medical privacy was about. What is the harm in freely sharing patient information, and why is access to it so tightly regulated?

Privacy and Health Care is a collection of six essays on this difficult subject. Having been exposed to the different viewpoints and the reasoning behind them, I now have a much better understanding of the issues surrounding health care privacy. The most surprising revelation for me was the number of seemingly good reasons for allowing third party access to patient medical records. The relatively rare instances of harm coming to individual patients as a result of inappropriate disclosure would, on the face of it, seem like a reasonable price to pay for the overwhelming benefits to medical research and other legitimate uses.

Yet for all the purported benefits and efficiencies of such free access, the primary purpose of the health care system is to help the patients get better. If they avoid seeking much needed treatment for fear of medical disclosure, or do not feel free to be fully honest with their doctor about their conditions, then the health care system will fail in its primary role. And that is why preserving patient privacy is so important.

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