Friday, March 16, 2012

Hospital Blocks Access to 18th Century Records

Pennsylvania Hospital has refused a graduate student's request to see 18th century medical records, citing HIPAA concerns.

[Melissa Dribben, Health-record privacy impeding medical research," Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 March 2012. h/t Michelle Meyer.]

The newspaper explains:
Although [the hospital's archivist] was able to open admission records providing basic information - patients' sex, age, and suspected ailments - she could not allow access to detailed charts.

In England, where Segesser also is conducting this research, she said, medical records are fair game 75 years after the patient's death.

But in the United States, the privacy protection extends back forever.

"This is a huge issue," said Howard Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. "It's closing off some of the most intriguing avenues in the history of medicine research."

In related news, Connecticut has modified the state's Freedom of Information Act to block similar research there. It did so without giving historians the chance to testify.


Anonymous said...

You should know the the access that is already being granted violates HIPAA. Patient names are protected health information. Surprised this was allowed.

Theresa Defino
Report on Research Compliance
Contributing Writer
Report on Patient Privacy

Zachary M. Schrag said...

Thanks for this message.

I claim little expertise here, but I think the matter is more complex than that, since HIPAA does allow some access to researchers.

See HHS, Understanding HIPAA Privacy, and Susan C. Lawrence, "Access Anxiety: HIPAA and Historical Research," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 62 (2007): 422-460.

Anonymous said...

As a nurse and citizen, I appreciate the HIPPA laws but not allowing access to medical records from the 18th century is bazarre, ludicrous, stupid, misguided, assinine . . . you get my drift.
It serves NO purpose. Who is enforcing this? It makes me angry, frustrated, sickened, embarrassed for our nation, and generally confused. I can't even grasp this idiocy! Who is putting up wiht this c--p!