Social-Media Sharing of Athlete’s Health Info Opens Privacy Issues for All Patients


For Immediate Release
July 13, 2015

Deborah Hamilton, Hamilton Strategies, 215.815.7716, 610.584.1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison, 610.584.1096, ext. 104,


Social-Media Sharing of Athlete’s Health

Info Opens Privacy Issues for All Patients


Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom Says Millions of Patients Have Private Medical Data Shared Daily—Without Knowing It


ST. PAUL, Minn.—A sportswriter created quite a furor last week, not for his coverage of a soccer match or his prediction for the All-Star Game tomorrow, but for what he shared about a particular athlete on Twitter.

Most times, sportswriters talk about stats, sacks and shots, but last Wednesday evening, an ESPN reporter and analyst posted images from the actual medical chart for New York Giants football player Jason Pierre-Paul, who had a finger amputated after a 4th of July fireworks incident, according to CNN.

The controversial tweet opened up many more issues besides how the injury might affect fans’ Fantasy Football picks. Instead, it’s raised questions about the sanctity of medical records and who really has the right to see them—and share them.

These are questions considered daily by Twila Brase, president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHF,, a Minnesota-based national organization dedicated to preserving patient-centered health care and protecting patient and privacy rights. And Brase isn’t surprised at all about how easily ESPN might have obtained the records, because private medical information is accessible by so many—thanks, in part, to Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and a HIPAA “privacy” rule that really doesn’t ensure privacy at all.

“This is a prime example of what happens when private medical records are accessible by a broad range of people through the computer and the Internet,” Brase said. “Many patients incorrectly assume that HIPAA protects their privacy, and they’re outraged when their private medical data is shared with others, posted publicly or even hacked. But what everyone needs to know is that private health data is shared daily without patient consent and millions of corporate and government entities are eligible for access without consent because of HIPAA. Unlike this football player’s injury that made headlines, most patients don’t know who’s looking at what data in their record or for what purpose. This sharing of patient data is going on behind our backs, and much of the country is largely unaware that it’s happening every day.”

Outcry followed soon after the post of the medical report, and the term “HIPAA” started trending almost immediately, with many wondering why the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act didn’t protect the privacy of Pierre-Paul’s medical record.

“Right now, depending on who has your medical records and who they decide to share them with, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of people are looking at analyzing, and sharing private health data within the offices and computer stations of the 701,000 ‘covered entities’ and the 1.5 million business associates who are permitted to have access without consent if they get it from a doctor, clinic, hospital or health plan,” Brase said. “Plus local, state, tribal and federal government agencies can also get access without consent. The difference is that one is hidden; the other overt. One, many people now know about as a result of ESPN; the other, they have no idea.”

CNN also quoted a media ethics expert and a former ombudsman for ESPN, who said that Pierre-Paul “could have a reasonable expectation of privacy here specifically around his medical records.”

Brase added that no patient can actually have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” because HIPAA does nothing to protect privacy. When a hospital, doctor’s office or clinic slides a HIPAA consent form across the counter for the patient’s signature, it’s only for the patient to acknowledge that they’ve been given the notice of how their data will be shared without their consent—not that their private medical information will be protected. In fact, HIPAA is permissive, not requiring but allowing medical data to be shared broadly for law enforcement, national security purposes, research, analysis, tracking of treatment decisions and a 390-word list of “health care operations,” Brase said. EHRs make this sharing even easier and data more insecure. So what happened on Twitter last week could happen to any patient—on a much grander scale.

“Under the HIPAA ‘privacy rule,’” Brase continued, “all of our private medical records are susceptible to widespread sharing, use and analysis, down to our genetic test results, doctors notes, behaviors, diagnoses, personal comments and more. No patient consent is required. Essentially, our private data becomes owned by outsiders, and access decisions are taken out of our control. Given the absence of patient consent requirements for data sharing and use, the lack of interoperability between EHRs is all that protects Americans from all the access that HIPAA permits but is not yet technologically possible.”

For more information about CCHF and its “5C” Solution for Health Carevisit its web site at, its Facebook page at or its Twitter feed, @CCHFreedom.

Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a patient-centered national health freedom organization based in St. Paul, Minn., exists to protect health care choices and patient privacy.​ CCHF sponsors the daily, 60-second radio feature, Health Freedom Minute, which airs on approximately 350 stations nationwide, including 200 on the American Family Radio Network and 100 on the Bott Radio Network. Listeners can learn more about the agenda behind health care initiatives and​ steps they can take to protect their health care choices, rights and privacy. 

CCHF president and co-founder Twila Brase, R.N., has been called one of the “100 Most Powerful People in Health Care” and one of “Minnesota’s 100 Most Influential Health Care Leaders.” A public health nurse, Brase has been interviewed by CNN, Fox News, Minnesota Public Radio, NBC Nightly News, NBC’s Today Show, NPR, New York Public Radio, the Associated Press, Modern Healthcare, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The Washington Times, among others. She is at the forefront of informing the public of crucial health issues, such as intrusive wellness and prevention initiatives in Obamacare, patient privacy, informed consent, the dangers of “evidence-based medicine” and the implications of state and federal health care reform.


For more information or to interview Twila Brase, president and co-founder of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, contact Deborah Hamilton at 215-815-7716 or 610-584-1096, ext. 102, or Beth Harrison at 610-584-1096, ext. 104,

view pdf