HHS Launches Information Is Powerful Medicine Campaign

Content From: Leon Rodriguez, J.D., Director, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: May 30, 20134 min read


Leon Rodriguez
Leon Rodriguez

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is proud to announce the launch of the Information Is Powerful Medicine campaign. The campaign contributes to Department-wide efforts guided by the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) to improve health outcomes for all people living with HIV/AIDS. Focusing specifically on Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (BMSM) given the significant HIV-related health disparities they face, the campaign underscores how having access to your medical record can help you better manage your health. Through printed materials and online resources, the campaign provides important messages about the right to see and get a copy of your medical record (called the right to access), a cornerstone of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.

Many consumers want to play a more active role in their health care. The Wall Street Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and Academic Medicine have all documented that timely access to one’s health information helps significantly lower costs and shorten hospital stays. All too often, patients face barriers to getting their health information – and the first barrier is that many do not know their rights.

And that is why this campaign is so critical to inform audiences most affected by HIV/AIDS, particularly BMSM who continue to be so disproportionately affected by the HIV epidemic. Although BMSM make up only 1% of the U.S. population, they represented nearly 24% of new HIV infections in 2011 according to CDC’s latest HIV Surveillance Report. OCR’s Information Is Powerful Medicine campaign highlights important health information protections and delivers important calls to action to BMSM and others, including: “Take charge of your HIV care. Request a copy of your medical record.” and “It’s your information. Get it. Check it. Use it.”

Information is Powerful Medicine

The campaign urges individuals to access their medical records and be more involved in their care because access to this information empowers patients to track their progress, monitor their lab results, communicate with their treatment teams, and adhere to their important treatment plans. The campaign also provides information on e-health tools, such as the Blue Button, which make it easier, safer, and faster for consumers to get access to their health information and to become a true partner in their health care and wellness. Finally, the campaign presents information on the HIPAA Privacy Rule in clear, understandable language because trust in the privacy of health information is of critical importance for people living with HIV.

Campaign Launch and Rollout

We were pleased to launch the campaign last week at Whitman Walker HealthExit Disclaimer in Washington, DC. The launch was an official event of the DC's Black Lesbian and Gay PrideExit Disclaimer weekend and campaign materials were disseminated throughout the event. Information Is Powerful Medicine will continue rolling out at several other Black Pride events this summer in Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, and Oakland. In addition, ads will appear in national publications, on websites and in social media, and key community stakeholders are participating to help disseminate the campaign.

We invite you to:

  • review the Information Is Powerful Medicine campaign information on hiv.gov/about-us/privacy-policy
  • download and share the Information Is Powerful Medicine brochure, poster and/or web banners with others who might find the information helpful
  • share your feedback on the campaign with us in the Comments section below or via email at OCRPrivacy@hhs.gov
About OCR

OCR is the Department's civil rights and health privacy rights law enforcement agency. Together federal civil rights laws and the HIPAA Privacy Rule protect your fundamental rights of nondiscrimination and health information privacy. To protect your rights, OCR teaches health and social service workers about civil rights, health information privacy, and patient safety confidentiality laws that they must follow; educates communities about civil rights and health information privacy rights; and investigates civil rights, health information privacy and patient safety confidentiality complaints to find out if there is discrimination or violation of the law and takes action to correct problems.

HHS Collaboration

Reflecting the NHAS’ call for a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic, OCR has been honored to receive support from a number of HHS partners in the development of this campaign, including HIV.gov, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

OCR takes seriously our responsibility to ensure that patients know their rights and get access to their health information. Please join us in spreading the word that information is powerful medicine to more effectively manage our health and wellness.