Patient Privacy


Walgreens Store Redesign Raises Privacy Concerns

(Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

(Lisa Aliferis/KQED)

By Chris Richard

Privacy activists are voicing concern that Walgreens pharmacies may endanger the confidentiality of customer records with a new business model that places pharmacists at a desk on the store floor.

The “Well Experience” model makes it much easier for customers to view pharmacists’ computer screens and documents on their desks, according to a report prepared by the research arm of Change to Win, a labor-backed organization whose constituents include pharmacists and pharmacy technician unions.

“We have heard from pharmacists, not necessarily in our membership, who work in this model, who are very concerned about its implications for the practice of pharmacy,” said Nell Geiser, associate director of Change to Win Retail Initiatives.

“Think about it for a moment. If you were to go to a doctor, would you want to be out in the lobby talking to your doctor?” — Beth Givens, director of the San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

“Pharmacists want to do their job well and serve the public, and they also want to protect their license, which is on the line if any error takes place in their pharmacy.”

Change to Win is concerned about the possibility of increased thefts — especially of narcotics —   as well as the risk of errors in formulating prescriptions under the new Walgreens model. The model removes pharmacists from their usual in-person supervisory role, Geiser said. Continue reading

Health Care Privacy? Apparently Not.

(Monica Lam: California Watch)

(Monica Lam: California Watch)

For more than a year Prime Healthcare Services, which owns 14 hospitals in California, has been the subject of state and federal investigation into potentially fraudulent billing with Medicare and Medi-Cal. Journalists at California Watch have filed numerous stories and even done their own analysis of 50 million Medicare records about Prime’s billing practices.

But this post is not about Medicare fraud.

Instead, it’s about unapproved release of one patient’s medical records, as Mike Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times explained in his column today:

Of all the personal information that you might want to keep private, your medical records are the most important. That’s why federal and state laws carry stiff penalties, up to and including jail time, for healthcare providers who let such data loose into the wild.

So you should be aghast at how free and easy Prime Healthcare Services and two executives at Prime-owned Shasta Regional Medical Center have been with the medical chart of a patient named Darlene Courtois. They showed the entire chart to an editor of her hometown newspaper, and Prime’s corporate office divulged some of her medical examination results to me (though I didn’t ask for them). They didn’t have her permission for those disclosures, her daughter says.

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