A story last week caught my eye about a patient, Julie, who was surprised to discover that her psychotherapy notes became a part of her electronic health record at the hospital system that administered her care — Partners in Boston.
She found out that any doctor within the Partners system could access her record — including her sensitive psychotherapy notes — with no reason whatsoever. And she only discovered this privacy issue because her new internist initially refused to prescribe her needed medication because of “concern” about her psychiatric history — a history he had access to and read without the patient’s prior knowledge.
There’s a couple of problems here. But it’s a teaching moment for others implementing system-wide electronic health records. Psychotherapy notes enjoy special status in the health care community, and that special status should continue even in the age of electronic access.
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