An article in Consumer Reports tells how our medical information is not as private as many would like. When you fill a prescription, you may assume your medication is between you, the pharmacist, and your doctor. But a surprising number of people have access to your prescription history, including your credit card and Social Security numbers. Your BBB® offers info on protecting your privacy.
Pharmacies and doctors are not allowed to give your prescription records to employers without your consent. However, your records can still be shared by pharmacy chains and their business partners and used in ways you might not expect. Pharmacies and the drug and device makers they do business with are allowed to remind you about refills and recently lapsed prescriptions, and provide “advice” about adhering to treatments. So if you take insulin, for example, you might get mail or email ads about a new insulin pump or supplies for testing blood sugar. When you apply for life, disability, or long-term care insurance, carriers are permitted to hire information-service firms to analyze your medication records and score your health risk. Pharmacies and companies that administer insurance-company drug benefits sell prescription records to so-called data miners that remove information that can identify you and analyze the rest. That info can be used for medical research, and can be bought by drug makers who use it to track prescribing patterns. That gives them an edge in persuading doctors to prescribe their products, sometimes in place of cheaper or more appropriate alternatives. And some companies have already found a way to match your data to websites you go to so they can then target you with ads.
Medication records can also be a gold mine for criminals, who may use them to get drugs illegally, or file false insurance claims. Privacy breaches frequently arise from preventable human errors,” such as a pharmacy clerk forgetting to shred paper prescriptions. Pharmacies have paid millions of dollars in settlements for disposing private patient information improperly. So think twice before allowing credit card numbers and especially Social Security numbers to be included in office records of your pharmacy or doctor. Learn how to protect your medical info from identity theft.
You can’t completely secure your prescription info. But you can minimize the potential for problems by doing the following:
Check records. Keep a log of the drugs you take and periodically ask your pharmacy and insurance company for copies of your prescription records to check for accuracy. If you’ve applied for life, disability, or long-term-care insurance in recent years, the three major reporting agencies, MedPoint 844-225-8047, Milliman Intelliscript 877-211-4816, Medical Information Bureau 866-692-6901 will give you a free copy of any requested medication history in their files.
Read the Fine Print. Pharmacy memberships savings programs, and apps may expect you to trade access to your health information for discounts. Privacy policies state you may also receive promotional information and offers. So read privacy policies carefully, ask questions about anything that you don’t understand, and don’t sign up if you’re uncomfortable.
Say no to marketing. You may be able to opt out of reminders or ads related to your medication. Ask doctors to opt out. Healthcare providers can indicate that they don’t wish to share prescription information with drug makers through the American Medical Association’s Prescription Data Restriction Program.
When disposing of old prescriptions, consumers should cover the label with a permanent marker or remove it. For more information about disposing unwanted medicine, see Best Ways to Get Rid of Unwanted Medication. If you think a pharmacist has breached your privacy, file a complaint with your state’s Board of Pharmacy.
To read information on how health data is used, and to reduce your risks of abuse, see Consumer Report’s free downloadable guide-Medical Data: What You Need to Know Now.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.