Medical Records Profiling
National Physicians Center
As medical professionals we strongly oppose the use of patients' private medical records for any purpose other than diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.
Violating the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship attacks the very foundation of the medical profession. As physicians we have sworn an oath to protect the health of our patients and, when necessary, to act as confidants. Individuals who do not trust their physicians are less likely to seek medical attention, creating the potential for serious setbacks in public health.
By law, physicians must honor their patients' right to privacy for many conditions, including HIV/AIDS, the reproductive health of minors, mental health and drug addiction. Because of the enormous liability involved in the medical profession, we are ever aware of the implications of malpractice. If we revealed information contained in our patients confidential medical records we would be guilty of professionally unethical behavior. This is exactly the same relationship established by the attorney / client privilege.
The screening of medical records for the purpose of "typing" certain individuals or classes is in direct conflict with these professional standards of confidentiality.
The law enforcement community is currently facing criticism and potential criminal charges for its use of what is known as "racial profiling." The charges against law enforcement include the use of demographics and certain personal characteristics to identify individuals as "high risk" for criminal behaviors. Similar legal and ethical concerns are raised when medical and non-medical information contained in patients' records is the sole criteria used to define individuals as potentially "high risk" for certain actions / behaviors. This type of "profiling" is experimental at best and unconstitutional - even criminal at worst. It essentially assumes these "high risk" individuals to be guilty until proven innocent.
Characteristics such as socioeconomic background, race and gender should not be considered definitive indicators of any potential behaviors. Medical records "profiling" is the wrong prescription for predicting and preventing unhealthy behaviors. Without the assurance of absolute confidentiality in regard to medical information, the erosion of the patient / physician relationship will be ongoing and eventually irreversible.
We applaud the courage of lawmakers who support the privacy of their constituents and stand firmly against the misuse of personal medical information for any reason. Those who entrust their health and security to us deserve no less.