Dr. Deborah Peel is probably the nation’s foremost advocate for patient privacy. The Texas psychiatrist has worked tirelessly to include privacy protections in all of the health reform ideas of the past twenty years.
She recently gave a presentation at TEDx where she informed the geek community of how extensive medical data breaches have become. Not just extensive but perfectly legal and even encouraged by our government. Bottom line ― there is no medical privacy anywhere in American health care.
Dr. Peel’s mission is to inform people about what is happening, but her remedies are pretty thin. We need to keep in mind the old adage — he who pays the piper picks the tune. Patients will control their data only when they control the money. We have to move away from third party payment, whether that third party is your employer, private insurance, or a government agency. As long as someone else pays our bills they will know what services we consume, whom we buy those services from, and what condition those services were supposed to treat.
We will not have privacy until we control the money. After all, every penny spent on health care comes from us ― there is no other source. It may come from us in the form of insurance premiums, taxes, or lost wages on the job. It is all our money, and it is supposed to be spent for our benefit.
We have allowed these other parties to manage our money because we thought they would do a better job than we could. But they haven’t done a better job. They have done a lousy job. They have given us a health care system that is bureaucratic, inconvenient, unaccountable, of questionable quality, and far too expensive. And now, as Dr. Peel notes, we are not even allowed confidentiality for our most intimate transactions.
We need to take our money back and control our own spending. We need to reward providers that treat us right and shun the ones that don’t. That is the only way we will ever achieve a health care system that values the patient.