Jane's Story: Giving Access to Her Health Information

Health Stories

Jane, a pregnant woman, was asked to sign an authorization to release her personal health information to a pharmaceutical company before getting a prescription she needed to help insure the well-being of her and her unborn child. The doctor’s office called her and said she’d need to download and fax a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization form before she could get her medication. She didn’t think much of it until she downloaded the form and read it. A few things didn’t add up.

Jane believed that she was required to sign before getting her prescription, but the form said signing was voluntary. She also thought HIPAA protected medical information in any setting (it doesn’t), but the agreement stated that any personal health information the pharmaceutical company obtained from her doctor would no longer be protected by it. She wasn’t sure whether to sign, so she contacted us to learn more about her options.

Ultimately, her choice hinged on whether the pros of signing the authorization to release her health information outweighed the cons. These were a few of the things that we asked her to find out and consider:

  • Is the authorization voluntary, and what will you give up if you don’t sign?
  • Who is going to have access to your information (one person or a company and all of their affiliates)?
  • How long does the authorization last (a month, a year, 5 years, forever)?
  • Can you cancel the authorization, if you want?
  • How will your information to be used?
  • Can your information be sold to a third party?


Jane’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.