What can happen when genetic test results are placed in medical records?

Clinical test results are normally included in a person’s medical records. Consequently, individuals considering genetic testing must understand that their results might not be kept private.

Because a person’s genetic information is considered health information, it is covered by the Privacy Rule of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 . The Privacy Rule requires that health care providers and others protect the privacy of health information, sets boundaries on the use and release of health records, and empowers individuals to control certain uses and disclosures of their health-related information. Many states also have laws to protect the privacy and limit the release of genetic and other health information.

In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) became Federal law . GINA prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in relation to health insurance and employment, but the law does not cover life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance. When applying for these types of insurance, people may be asked to sign forms that give an insurance company permission to access their medical records. The insurance company may take genetic test results into account when making decisions about coverage.

Some physicians keep genetic test results out of medical records. However, even if such results are not included in a person’s medical records, information about a person’s genetic profile can sometimes be gathered from that person’s family medical history.

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