California state laws and new federal regulations provide patients rights to help keep their medical records private and confidential. This means that every California medical patient has limits on who can view and see their health records. The patient can also set limits on what and who can see their medical information. California patients should ensure that their health information and medical records are kept private. Sharing of medical information can be a problem because information in your medical records may be used against your best interest. For example:

  • Your employer may inquire if you have a mental problem or a serious disease that could cause you to perform poorly at work.
  • Insurance companies often seek to access medical information in order to increase your premiums.
  • Attorneys may want to access medical records to stop you from winning a lawsuit. 

What Protects Private Medical Information?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) sets guidelines to the medical field that assure privacy standards. These standards were created to improve health insurance, health care delivery, and to simplify the administration of health insurance.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act recognizes that medical information is very private. HIPAA was initiated to: 

  • Ensure confidentiality;
  • Protect against unauthorized uses of information;
  • Prevent disclosures of private information;
  • Preserve the reliability of the information; and
  • Provide trust between patient and doctor.

What are the California State Laws Regarding my Medical Privacy?

California has stringent privacy laws that make it difficult for other people to access your medical information. Unlike the Federal Constitution, the California Constitution specifically protects a person’s medical information privacy.
The premier medical privacy statute in California is the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (CIMA). CIMA protects the medical history, condition, and treatment of ailments, including sexually transmitted diseases, rapes, and mental diseases. A healthcare provider cannot disclose medical information unless authorized by the proper court of law, law enforcement or health agency, or other governmental entity. 

Another California medical privacy statute is the Insurance Information and Privacy Protection Act (IIPPA). IIPPA prevents insurers and their agencies from revealing certain medical information obtained about a client. There is the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which broadly prohibits providers of healthcare services from disclosing patients’ private information, except to the courts as necessary for justice. 

Why is the Privacy of My Medical Information Important?

Patient privacy laws and patient confidentiality is one of the most important privacy pillars. Medical information privacy laws keep Californians secure in the knowledge that they will not be fired from their jobs as a result of consulting with a doctor about their medical health issues. For a health care system to work, patients need to completely trust and confidentiality that their doctor will not share their private health information with the public. 

Can My Employer See My Medical Information?

California employees can limit what health information their employer has access to or even prevent their employers from receiving most health information about you. Doctors, insurance companies, and other healthcare providers have to ask for employee’s written permission before they can give medical health information to the employer. 

How Do I Give Consent to Disclose My Health Information?

California patients can give consent to share and disclose their health information by signing an authorization for that describes what they are disclosing, the person and that is receiving the health information, and the purpose for the use of the information. 

What are Some Legal Remedies in a Health Record Privacy Dispute in California?

Violations of privacy rights must usually be remedied through a civil lawsuit.  In such a case, a damages award may be issued in order to compensate the plaintiff for losses caused by the violation. A common example is where the improper disclosure of health records causes a person to lose a personal injury suit. Upon discovery of the abuse of privacy rights, it may be necessary to file an appeal in order to review the use of the medical records.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you should consult a employment lawyer. Your doctor and/ or hospital may be liable for serious criminal charges and civil damages. An experienced lawyer can help you find your best course of legal action and represent you in court.