PRACTICE PEARLS

 

Fam Pract Manag. 2018 Jan-Feb;25(1):34.

WARN PATIENTS ABOUT PRIVACY ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH GENETIC TESTING

As a growing number of patients are asking about genetic testing, I have discovered that the potential privacy implications of receiving positive test results are not well understood by patients, physicians, or even some genetic counselors.

Under HIPAA, “protected health information” does not specifically include genetic data. While many think the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 covers the bases on privacy, it does not. In fact there are no protections against discrimination on the basis of genetic testing results for long-term care insurers, disability care insurers, or employers with fewer than 15 employees.

However, HIPAA does provide a powerful tool for patient confidentiality that we inform our patients about as needed. If a patient pays for a visit entirely out-of-pocket, that visit and the results associated with it, such as genetic testing, can be kept confidential from insurers. You would have to consider how to record this information in your electronic health record (EHR) to protect it from inadvertent disclosure. Some EHRs provide for sealed folders.

Patients look to us for health care advice. We can also help them in protecting themselves and their health care information.

USE TEXT MESSAGES TO BOOST FLU SHOTS

Some patients who would otherwise get flu shots do not schedule an appointment for one because they forget or don't know when the flu vaccine is available. A recent study found that an effective, low-cost way to increase flu shots is to send reminders to patients by text message.

Researchers identified high-risk patients who had not already received a flu shot and randomly notified half of them through a text message that the flu shot was available. The text also provided the phone number for

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Practice Pearls presents readers' advice on practice operations and patient care, along with tips drawn from the literature. Send us your best pearl (250 words of less), and you'll earn $50 if we publish it. We also welcome questions for our Q&A section. Send pearls, questions, and comments to fpmedit@aafp.org, or add your comments below.

 
 

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