Privacy is defined as the state by which an individual’s information is not disclosed to the public (Ford and English 752). In medical field, health in information is in most cases kept private by the health professionals so that they remain confidential to the patient. However, it depends on the consent of the patient whether the information can be disclosed to the public or not. In the United States, the HIPAA Rule offers federal protection for health information of the citizens (Ford). This Privacy Rule is considered as balanced and therefore allows the disclosure of people’s personal health information which is necessary for patient care as well as other fundamental purposes. The American Security Rule amends a series of physical, technical, and administrative safeguards for the citizens to ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of computerized and protected health records or information.
The protection and management of health information can be dated back to the American Health Information Management Association which was established in 1928 (Ford). There are two perspectives regarding the privacy of health information: privacy can be seen as an obstacle to attaining amelioration in health care due frequent use of health information technology; and privacy of the health information to strengthen the confidence and trust of the consumer.
Strengths and weaknesses of personal health information privacy
According to Ford and English (752), Americans are cognizant of the limitations and strengths of using health information technology regarding health information of the consumer. It has been found that most of the American citizens prefer the computerized access to their personal health information which will be beneficial both to respective citizens and the health care providers. They develop this perspective because of the belief that the computerized access to health information can promote the quality of health care. The other category of citizens has the opposing perspective on the privacy and confidentiality of personal health information. According to this category of individuals, keeping the personal health information private and confidential can avoid the following vices: the insurers accessing personal health records of the contributor; employers getting to access to employee’s health information; identity theft or fraud; and use of personal medical information for marketing purposes.
Therefore, according to this category, appropriate securities to privacy must be integrated within the health information technology policies and systems. It is however considered a difficult task to lay down appropriate protections to privacy in a retroactive manner and to bring back the already undermined public trust. This protection of privacy will avoid harm and promote reliability and accuracy of information which will be the basis of health care (Ford and English 752).
Lack of suitable protections of security and privacy within the health care system consumers will develop behaviors that they believe can promote privacy so that their health information is not used in an unsuitable way (Cheng 1404). When citizens, become aware that the privacy of their health information will not be protected, they hold back information from the concerned health providers so that to avoid their medical data from being revealed to the public. Those individuals who are categorized as ethnic and racial minorities report increased levels of the privacy issues regarding their medical records and have a higher probability of practicing the behaviors that can protect the privacy of the personal health information (Ford and English 753).
The behaviors such as paying out-of-pocket for one’s own care, frequent switching of doctors, asking doctors to manipulate a diagnosis, or avoiding seeking medical care, are meant to protect the privacy of health information, which can in turn shield individuals from discrimination or stigmatization (Cheng 1405). The aftermaths of such behaviors include: impaired accuracy of the diagnosis and treatment of infections; reduced quality of health care; increment in treatment costs; weakening of the public health, quality, and research initiatives because of inaccurate medical records.