“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,” writes FPM editorial advisory board member Sumana Reddy, MD, of Salinas, Calif., in this Practice Pearl:
“Under HIPAA, ‘protected health information’ does not specifically include genetic data. While many think the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) 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, 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 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.”
Read more Practice Pearls in the January/February issue of FPM.
Sign up to receive FPM's free, weekly e-newsletter, "Quick Tips & Insights," featuring practical, peer-reviewed advice for improving practice, enhancing the patient experience, and developing a rewarding career.