We’re Serious About Patient Privacy

Are you comfortable knowing that your own personal medical information and that of your patients may be on a computer in Pakistan right now? What about your financial information or your personal legal business? Here at MedmarQ, we’re not comfortable with it, and we don’t think that many Americans would be.

Here in the U.S., medical transcriptionists are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which was passed to protect the privacy of medical records. It sets out strict standards for everything including secure transfer and storage of files.

However many companies “offshore” their transcription work to companies and transcriptionists in foreign countries like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines where U.S. law does not apply. Some medical organizations may not even realize they are doing it; they may subcontract their work to a U.S. transcription company that offshores the work.

Currently, there are no U.S. laws – including HIPAA – that explicitly prevent companies from offshoring personal information, though there has been some talk at both the state and federal levels of implementing new Acts or amending current ones (See Link 1, below).

There are already documented cases of offshore transcriptionists who have threatened to disclose personally identifying information from medical records (see Link 2 below). Clearly, this would have been a breach of the HIPAA act, but there is little chance that they would be extradited and brought to justice here in the U.S. For all intents and purposes, these foreign transcriptionists are immune to prosecution.

The problem does not stop here. A medical record often includes not only your name and date of birth, but address, social security number, and even a scan of your driver’s license for photo ID in some cases. It is not too far of a stretch to realize that in the wrong hands, this information could be used to forge passports and other documents that could lead to threats to national security. Some veterans have already voiced concerns that health records for military personnel could be used to target our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries (See Link 3, below).

You can also contact the American Transcription Association (ATA) at www.ataus.org for more information. The ATA is dedicated to making this issue public so people understand the risks involved with offshoring of personal and sensitive information. Its goal is to foster a strong domestic – and fully accountable – transcription industry.

Link 1 – Offshoring of medical, financial, and legal information

Link 2 – Offshore transcriptionists threatening disclosure of personally identifying information

Link 3 – Veterans concerned about offshoring