ABC News investigated this alarming trend and found out some disturbing news.
Julie, a lawyer from Boston, discovered that her sensitive health information was available to anyone who worked at the hospital.
“My expectation was that my records were going to be private, especially my therapy records,” Julie said. “And if another doctor wanted to see my records, they’d ask me and then I’d give my authorization for them to view my records if they needed to see them.”
Julie, who requested her last name not be used, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her late teens and began seeing a psychiatrist in 2002 after speaking with her primary care physician.
She, like millions of Americans, thought her conversations with her psychiatrist were confidential.
What she didn’t realize was that her physician’s notes could be accessed by doctors and other health-care providers who worked in the same health-care system (6,000 doctors and nine affiliated hospitals) to have access — information she learned after going to see an on-call physician for a stomach issue and realizing he knew about intimate relationship information only disclosed to her psychiatrist.
Concerned, she requested a copy of her medical records from the health care system.
Within those records she saw every note, every meeting, every conversation she had with her psychiatrist.
“It was pretty traumatic because I felt that, you know, this man read without — against my wishes — without my consent,” Julie said. “He read private information that I disclosed to a therapist that I didn’t even tell my best friends about.”
And while most hospitals have rules about who may access medical records, compliance for the most part is not strictly regulated.
In fact, an ABC News investigation found that often medical information is so unprotected, millions of records can be bought online. Because so many people have access, the entire system is vulnerable to theft, experts told ABC News
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