Saturday, September 6, 2008

Your Pharmacy May Soon Be Releasing Your Medical Information

There is currently a bill in the California state government that would allow your pharmacy to send your prescription drug information to advertisers and pharmaceutical companies.

The bill would limit the information that can be sent to only the prescribed drug information for the purpose of providing healthcare services to the patient. The pharmacy is required to disclose any financial rewards it receives for sending out your medical information.

The advantage that this bill may have is that it could help with patient compliance. Patient non-compliance, meaning patients who do not follow their doctor's instructions on taking their medications, is a huge problem. Patients may forget to take their medications or often they simply stop taking their medications once they start feeling better. They may not refill their prescriptions if they feel the cost of the drug outweighs their current suffering.

Patient non-compliance is a large public health problem because prematurely stopping their medication can lead to the loss of control of their medical condition. This can have severe consequences if they are being treated for life-threatening situations such as infections, heart conditions, or high blood pressure. In addition to the medical risk that non-compliance has, the drug companies want to stop non-compliance because it costs them many millions of dollars each year due to drugs that are prescribed but not completely purchased by the patient.

So this new bill is being touted as a win-win for patients and drug companies. When the drug company is notified by the pharmacy that you have been prescribed their medication, the drug company may start sending you information about how to take the drug and give you prompts and reminders when you need to retake or refill the drug. This way, the patient takes all their medication which helps their health and the wallets of the drug companies.

The cons of this bill are that your personal information is being shared to a third party, in this case the drug advertisers. You may not want or welcome the advertisements and the reminders coming to you from the drug company. Besides the possible unwanted drug advertisements being sent to you, there is always the issue that your personal health information has been distributed without your direct control. While there will be some safeguards to keep your records secure, there is never 100% security and once your information has been sent out, it may be hard to track and monitor. The bill says that patients will have the option to opt out of the program and not let their pharmacy send their prescription information to other companies.

My conclusion:
The transfer of electronic medical records between health care providers, pharmacies, and third party companies is here to stay and will become more and more commonplace. This bill is simply one of many to come that will try to regulate this issue. Electronic medical record transfers promise to have great rewards for patients health safety, but clearly have a lot of risks for keeping patients' personal information secure. People will need to become much more involved in monitoring their personal health information in much the same way they now need to monitor their personal finance information. Just as you need to be smart about how you provide your financial information to strangers, be smart about how you provide your medical information to strangers, as well.

No comments:

Follow me on Twitter!

    follow me on Twitter