Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Legal regulation of the privacy of medical information is now at a critical stage. Americans are highly concerned about the processing and use of their personal data. Over three-quarters of the public currently believes that the individual has lost control of how personal information is circulated and applied by companies., Indeed, a recent poll reveals that those who know the most about the current protection of medical information-physicians, heads of medical societies, health insurers, and hospital CEOs-are also the most concerned about threats to personal privacy.

Social concern about the threat to informational privacy has resulted in strong approval for the creation of detailed protections for medical information Support for increased protection is well justified; current regulation of health care data is not successful. Moreover, the flaws in the existing legal structure will be exacerbated by inevitable increases in the demand for personal medical information. In particular, many current proposals for health care reform seek to increase access to personal medical information for a host of entities as a means to control medical costs, improve the provision of medical services, and further scientific research. This increased access will occur through continued computerization of health care data and through opening access to personal medical information.