Medical records can be some of the most sensitive information a person possesses. They can contain everything from your name and date of birth to your medical history and treatment plans.
Sometimes, however, you might want to share that information and wonder: Can health insurance companies access my medical records?
It’s no wonder that many people want to know who has access to their medical data and what they can do to protect their privacy.
We’ll answer those questions and more. We’ll discuss the different types of people who have access to your medical records, how your information is used and shared, and what you can do to keep yourself safe and secure.
The Different People Who Have Access to Your Medical Records
The question stands: Who has access to your medical records? The answer may surprise you. In addition to your health care provider, several other people and organizations can access your information.
Such people and organizations that can access your information include insurance companies, employers, government agencies, and even family members, in some cases.
Here’s a closer look at each one:
Your health insurance company can access your medical records to process claims and determine whether or not you’re eligible for coverage. They may also use your information to create a profile of you as a customer and to sell additional products or services.
If you have employer-sponsored health insurance, your employer can also access your medical records. They may use this information to decide your coverage, such as whether or not to offer you a particular plan.
In some cases, government agencies can also request access to your medical records. For example, the Social Security Administration can use your records to determine if you’re eligible for disability benefits.
In some cases, your medical information can be shared with your family members. For example, if you’re a minor, your parents or guardians may have access to your records. Or, if you’re an adult and you’ve given someone power of attorney, they may be able to request access to your records on your behalf.
How Your Medical Information Is Used and Shared
Now that you know who has access to your medical records, you may be wondering how they’re used and shared. In most cases, your information is used for treatment, payment, and health care operations.
Treatment refers to the provision of health care services to you by a healthcare provider. Payment includes activities such as submitting claims to insurance companies and verifying coverage.
Health Care Operations, Public Health Reporting, and Other Legal Reasons
Health care operations include quality assessment and improvement activities, case management, and customer service.
Your medical information can also be shared for other reasons, such as public health reporting, research studies, or when required by law.
For example, your information may be shared with state or federal agencies for purposes such as disease surveillance or investigation of worker’s compensation claims. Or, it may be shared with researchers conducting studies on new treatments or cures.
What You Can Do to Protect Your Privacy
So, what can you do to protect your privacy? There are several steps you can take to safeguard your information.
- Ask that your records only be shared with specific people or organizations, such as your primary care physician.
- Keep a copy of your own medical records so you have control over who has access to them.
- Request that your medical records be sent to you in a secure format, such as by physical mail or another means of encrypted digital transfer.
Some people wonder if digital medical records are harder to protect, but in many cases, they can actually be more secure than paper records.
That’s because digital records can be password-protected and encrypted, making them much more difficult for unauthorized people to access.
How to Access Your Medical Records if You Need Them
If you need to access your medical records, you can do a few things. You can go the old-fashioned way and contact your health care provider and ask for a copy of your records (this could take weeks or even months).
Then, you can receive them in a secure format, such as by mail or email.
However, thanks to the federal HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulation, patients now have the right to access their medical records in a simpler way. Individuals can log into a secure website and view their records anytime.
Here’s how to do it:
- You’ll need to create an account on your health care provider’s website. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to log in and view your records. If you’re not sure how to do this, just contact your provider, and they’ll be able to help you out.
- Once you’re logged in, you’ll be able to view your records, download them, print them out, or even share them with your doctor or another health care provider.
Keep in mind that you should always keep a copy of your records in a safe place, such as a lock box or safety deposit box. If something happens to your computer or phone, you’ll still have a copy of your records.
- Ask about how your medical information will be used and shared.
- Ask about what you can do if you need to access your medical records.
- Find out what steps the healthcare provider takes to keep your medical information safe and secure.
- Find out who has access to your medical records and under what circumstances.
- Make sure you know what your rights are under the policy.
- Make sure you understand the policy. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, ask for clarification.
Keep in mind that you have a right to privacy regarding your medical information. If you have any concerns about how your medical information will be used, make sure to raise them with your healthcare provider.
Always Remember Your Right to Privacy
In short, there are a number of people who have access to your medical records, but you can take steps to protect your privacy. If you need to access your medical records, you can request them from your healthcare provider.
Remember that you have a right to privacy when it comes to your medical information.
Luke Williams writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. His passions include best practices for insurance and answering the public’s most pressing health care questions.