The question of how much patient information should be made available to third-party
payers and reviewers is a contentious one. It has increased in importance with
rising health care costs and responsive changes in the health care industry.
Patients may be reluctant to have a great deal of personal health information
given to insurers and health system administrators, who do not share the same
prestige and confidence as doctors.
There is a natural minimum amount of
information that must be provided to third-party payers, however, such as the identity
of the patient and the treatment provided. These are essential to obtaining
Many health systems make extensive and increasing use of detailed patient
information in order to improve treatments and reduce costs. Patients should have
the option of not sharing information for this purpose, but they should be willing
to pay higher prices for health care as a result. Stated another way, patients
who are willing to reveal their health care information should be able to benefit
from the improvements in efficiency they help create.
In any event, medical information that is shared with third-party payers
must be held by them with the same duty to protect its confidence as the provider
who collected or recorded the information.