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Testimony Presented to National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics Concerning Privacy of Mental Health Information

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Publication Date: June 2010

Publisher(s): Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

Author(s): Chris Koyanagi

Topic: Health (Mental health)

Keywords: privacy; health records; electronic health records


Bazelon Center’s views on how electronic health records can protect patient privacy. Lack of communication among providers treating people with serious mental illnesses is a serious problem, especially given the high co-morbidity of other serious and chronic illnesses (diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer). However, in light of the stigma and discriminatory practices still attached to mental illnesses, fully open sharing of mental health information may not be the way to optimize communication or appropriate treatment of mental disorders. In fact, it may simply raise a consumer’s fear of disclosure and lead to withholding of information or failure to seek treatment. Public policy should ensure that fear of a breach of their record’s privacy not deter consumers from seeking the treatment that they need and that consumers are able to make informed choices about how their personal information is shared to improve their health outcomes.


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