Podcast: Would An ‘Opt In’ Requirement Alert Patients to Privacy Risks in Online Medical Records?


Do you really understand what happens to your personal information at the doctor’s office?

Without even realizing it, you may be agreeing to have your name, Social Security number, test results, and other private information shared across a wide network of medical clinics, state databases, and healthcare facilities.

For example, Maine’s medical community has been working with the non-profit HealthInfoNet for the past several years to create an electronic system that includes about 900,000 patient records.

Privacy Worries

But how are doctors communicating that potential privacy risk to their patients?

Doctors and hospitals participating in HealthInfoNet say they inform patients by having them sign health privacy papers during a visit or by mailing letters to patients’ homes.

However, that means patients must choose to “opt out” of the system and may not fully understand how their electronic health records are being accessed. Others may not truly understand they have the choice to opt out at all.

Given increasing concerns about Internet privacy and online security breaches, would an “opt in” option for patients encourage a better dialogue between patients and doctors? Would it give patients more transparency and control over their medical records if they truly understood the security risks of a state-wide electronic database?

In this podcast from Maine’s Public Broadcasting Network, Shenna Bellows of the Maine Civil Liberties Union says “it’s never a question of if a database will be breached but when and to what consequence.”


After listening to the podcast (by clicking the link above), does this information make you want to change how you share your personal information with healthcare facilities? What are some steps you will take to better protect yourself at the doctor’s office?

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Elaine Rigoli

Elaine Rigoli is PRIVATE WiFi's manager of digital content strategy.