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Privacy Commissioner warns insurers over medical records

In its latest report, the Privacy Commission poured water on insurers' access to medical notes, stating they could be risk breaking the law if they seek too much information.

Tuesday, June 30th 2009, 11:22PM 1 Comment

by Paul McBeth

Commissioner Marie Shroff said doctors were only obliged to pass on information that was "necessary to make insurance decisions," and that insurers could open themselves up to breaching privacy rules if they collect information that isn't essential to their enquiries. In saying that, Shroff also stressed clients need to be "upfront and honest" with insurers about their medical history.

Investment Savings and Insurance Association chief executive Vance Arkinstall said the new rules won't change things too much, but could cause costly delays. The onus will be on both insurers and doctors to comply with the Commissioner's report.

"It will slow down the processing of business and may see the cost to industry and to the doctors rise," he said.

While it's still early days, insurers are waiting to see how the decision will play out, and it may be complicated with electronic medical reports improving the availability of information for insurers, according to Milton Jennings, chief executive of Fidelity Life.

"Electronic medical attendant reports give quite a lot of information," and when they come on board it might be easier to get the specific information insurers require, he said.

Arkinstall said electronic medical records could be a problem under this interpretation, as it's often difficult to separate out information.

The investigation was the result of a complaint by the Medical Association, which has issued a series of guidelines to medical practitioners on how to respond to requests from life insurers.



Paul is a staff writer for Good Returns based in Wellington.

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Comments from our readers

On 2 July 2009 at 11:12 pm Andrew Brydon said:
As normal in this PC world everyone wants there cake and then not share it.
The question of whats relevant and essential to the insurance application can be very subjective. What the cleint (or advisor) thinks isnt important can actually be critical.
Often the client and the advisor don't know until its claim time and suddenly they get very disappointed when a claim is not paid through non disclosure or worse a whole policy is set aside.
Will the medical profession accept responsibility?
Sometimes things are forgotten and are relevant.
Full medical notes protects everyone especially in cases of deliberate non disclosure.
Commenting is closed



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