Can Doctors See My Prescription History
If you’ve ever filled out a form requesting medical records from an insurance company or hospital, the request probably came with some sort of privacy statement indicating that they’d have no right to share those records with anyone else. And while doctors aren’t required to release medical information without patient permission, most are at least courteous enough not to do so — unless you give them a reason. If you’re worried about someone seeing your prescriptions, however, there’s a good chance they can see them anyway.
As we mentioned last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires drug manufacturers to report adverse reactions to medications to their health agencies. This information may be shared with the public as well as government regulators who need it to make decisions about new drugs. The reporting process also includes any requests by other companies to access this data. So when a pharmaceutical manufacturer wants FDA approval for its medication, it must submit a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which details how it plans to protect patient safety.
In addition to REMS reports, all states require physicians to report certain kinds of patients to a centralized database called RxISKore. RxISKore collects demographic and prescription data on controlled substance users, including age, sex, race and ZIP code. Each state uses these databases to identify potential problems with specific medications. Physicians use the online portal to enter patient information into the system after dispensing a prescription. They then receive a list of possible risk factors for that patient based upon what they entered. These lists include whether the patient is pregnant, allergic to sulfa-based antibiotics or recently had surgery, among others.
While RxISKore doesn’t disclose individual patients’ medical histories, it does allow providers to search for specific information. A doctor could look up a patient’s history of seizures and find out what medications he or she takes. Or an emergency room could check a patient’s previous visits to determine if he or she would be safe staying overnight in the ER.
States vary in how much of this information they collect. States such as New York, Florida and Texas take more detailed measures than others. In fact, Texas allows pharmacies to keep customer records for longer periods of time, and it even allows pharmacists to view customers’ prescription histories. You might think that this would lead to higher drug costs, but studies show that it actually reduces prices because pharmacists become familiar with what generic products work best for particular conditions.
Prescriptions are only one part of the picture, though. Anyone filling a controlled substance on behalf of another person can also see a lot of personal information, including where the drugs were purchased, whether they paid cash or used insurance, and how often they refilled the same prescription. That’s why many people opt to refill prescriptions themselves rather than having a pharmacist fill them. But even if you don’t pay yourself, your employer probably knows where you got your prescription. According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 66 percent of employers said they monitor employees’ usage of controlled substances to ensure compliance with workplace policies.
So now you know that doctors and pharmacies can see your prescription history. What happens when you walk into a doctor’s office? Do you really want to bare all information about your past to your local family practitioner? How about finding out if your child just took his first dose of Adderall? Here’s how to choose a pediatrician wisely.
Choosing a Pediatrician Wisely
Pediatrics involves treating children, which means dealing with sensitive issues like birth defects, developmental disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and emotional issues. There are plenty of places to go wrong here, and choosing a pediatrician can feel intimidating. Some parents worry that a pediatrician isn’t sufficiently trained in areas like autism diagnoses, and some physicians fear that a parent demanding answers will hold up treatment. Fortunately, there are resources available to help guide your choices.
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers several recommendations for choosing a pediatrician, including asking friends, family members and coworkers for referrals. It recommends that parents interview several doctors before settling on one. Parents should ask questions regarding communication style, training, philosophy and approach to common childhood illnesses as well as special needs care.
Another resource is the KidsHealth website produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It contains articles written specifically for kids, along with links to relevant news stories and videos. On the site, you’ll find a directory of pediatricians by location, specialty and gender. As always, the American Medical Association’s Physician Locator tool is a great way to research doctors in your area.
Once you’ve found a candidate, learn everything you can about him or her through social media. Check out the pediatrician’s Facebook page and Twitter handle. Look through photos posted on Pinterest boards related to pediatrics. Search Google Images for pictures of the pediatrician. Even better, reach out to former patients via email or LinkedIn. Ask them questions about how satisfied they were with their experience and whether they would recommend the doctor.
Before scheduling an appointment, call the practice and ask about procedures such as vaccinations and lab tests. Find out whether you can bring copies of immunization records or lab results home with you. Make sure the pediatrician accepts your insurance plan, and read the fine print for any extra fees. Finally, once you arrive for your visit, stay focused on the task at hand instead of worrying about the doctor’s personality. After all, you’re paying for professional expertise, not entertainment.
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