In a time where reality television is now the norm, rather than the exception, privacy is a rare commodity. We want to know everything about our next door neighbor. It seems we’ve realized that keeping up with the Joneses is a lot easier when you can see every move that the Joneses are making. In a world of Real World, Big Brother, and Survivor, in a world where we consider watching a 25-year-old from Podunk making a PB&J sandwich to be entertainment, truly anything goes.
With the boundaries between public and private blurred almost beyond recognition, what’s the new frontier? Perhaps your most intimate relationship exposed: your medical records online. That’s right; as CNN reported, your private health details may already be online. In fact, CNN’s own medical correspondent discovered her own information online when researching for the article. Go ahead and Google yourself. Your very own prescription and treatment history might be available for the next curious clicker.
To access every morsel of medical treatment, someone only needs to know your address, Social Security number, and birthday. True, that’s not information everyone you meet has on hand, but it’s also not terrifically difficult for someone to obtain, especially someone with a closer relationship. Two prime examples: employers and spouses filing for divorce. And that could spell trouble.
On the other hand, some cite the advantages of such information being readily available, espousing empowerment. And that may be true, although there is a somewhat questionable line between being aware and making WebMD your regular doctor. The bottom line is that you have to weigh your own concerns, sometimes choosing between convenience and privacy. At least now that you know your records are online, you can either use them or request that they be removed.
But your records aren’t the first foray into virtual medicine. In fact, just a couple months ago, Injury Board member Mike Damaso raised the issue of doctors’ blogs and patient privacy. The concern is that information about a patient’s case could be traced back to the individual, thereby adversely affecting her employment, health insurance, or other aspects of her life. These matters raise a lot of issues regarding consent and, well, just plain old trust.
Now that MySpace and Facebook profiles are more common than not, we’re somewhat desensitized to putting it all out there for the world to see. Something to keep in mind, though, is that those sites allow you to choose what people will see. This advent of your health information being offered without your consent (or even knowledge in many cases) pushes the envelope even farther. So, on those sites where you’re the one controlling the flow of information, do us all a favor; leave a little something to the imagination. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches both in litigation and in life.