Every trip to a doctor's office or hospital adds more information to a deep, comprehensive record of who you are — physically, emotionally and even financially, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: Health care data breaches are more common than ever, putting our most sensitive personal information at risk of exposure and misuse.
How it works: Although electronic health records have pitfalls, they can help patients and the health care system overall.
Yes, but: "No one truly understands there's no such thing as deleting information from a health care file," said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum. "You cannot push the rewind button."
The medical details: Health records contain all the obvious stuff, such as height, weight and age; every appointment, vital sign, allergy, test, surgery, procedure and scan; and any prescription drugs you take, or have taken in the past.
- But everything divulged to doctors also gets recorded. That could include describing your drinking habits, admitting responsibility in a car accident, sharing marital problems or even sending a Christmas card.
The financial details: Insurance and contact information are always on file.
- Hospitals' billing departments also have more personal financial information — like debit and credit card numbers — because insurance plans keep requiring patients to pay more out of pocket.
But that's not all: Uninsured or low-income patients can apply for hospitals' financial-assistance programs, but they have to prove they qualify.
- That usually means handing over tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements or other relevant financial information.
The bottom line: All of this information can be exposed in data breaches, but also in medical malpractice lawsuits, workers' compensation lawsuits or custody disputes.