[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
December 18, 1996

Medical Records Privacy a Patient Rights Issue

JAMA. 1996;276(23):1861-1862. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540230011005

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


A PATIENT has a right to keep personal medical information confidential. The right is paramount and nonnegotiable, says a Boston psychiatrist. Furthermore, ensuring the privacy of health records in employee health plans makes good business sense. Ethically and financially, the bottom lines are similar.

Denise M. Nagel, MD, president of the National Coalition for Patient Rights, based in Lexington, Mass, and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, gave this advice to human resources managers and others at the 15th National Conference of the Employers' Managed Health Care Association, held in Washington, DC. The group's membership includes some of the nation's largest corporations, such as Xerox, General Motors, and Allied Signal. The members have considerable clout when it comes to negotiating health care plans for their employees.

Privacy Protection Not an Option  "Guarantees that health information is protected are no longer a value-added option," Nagel stated, adding,