Privacy is such a big deal these days. I sure am glad HIPAA came along. Before HIPAA, we would see a patient and then call everyone to tell them all the patients innermost secrets. I know Im much more successful now that I dont have to waste all that time letting the whole world know whos on beta-blockers and who lost a left contact lens in the pool. HIPAA saved the day!

And now that HIPAA has taught us to keep our secrets, I hear that the government wants to see what we Google on the Internet. Hey, I love the Internet. Ill never forget my first time on the Internet, when I found that everyone was so very friendly! The subject line of one of my first e-mails was Two college co-eds want to talk to YOU! Now, thats friendly if you ask me.

But sometimes you open a Web site and the content is a little different than you might expect. There are some great optometric Web sites I frequent. Of course, I will keep them a secret from you because you might misinterpret my interest in such important topics as Two optometry students want to talk to YOU!

Your Tax Dollars at Work
So, Uncle Sam now wants to know where we surf online.

Is all this secrecy making you paranoid? Me, too. Why, just last week I got this e-mail from some organization called The AOA. Hey, I wasnt born yesterday! I quickly deleted it before my wife could find it and think Im some kinda perv.

You see how this culture of secrecy gets in your blood? Now Im afraid to use the Internet. Im just as afraid to violate HIPAAs demand that I not dare say something so private to a patient as Hope you enjoy your new glasses unless I first take the patient into a soundproofed chamber, which is of course after he or she signs the requisite 32 forms that ensure my lifelong secrecy. Patients are mad at me for frisking them for hidden microphones before I take a seg height. Your tax dollars at work, I say, as I simultaneously debug them and check for scoliosis.

Its the culture of privacy. We all want to have private lives, dont we? But technology has made our lives an open book. They can access your Social Security number, bank accounts and tax information. I wish I could find out who They are because I, myself, cannot figure out how to access this information. Maybe They could clue me in.

Speaking of inside information, I have an image on my computer of my diverticulosis from my latest colonoscopy. I just know theres a hacker out there somewhere who has stolen the image and plans use it to his advantage.

So, whats next? Will the government come up with HIPAA II? Will HIPAA II require us to kill ourselves immediately after we see a patient so we can take his distant monocular PDs to the grave? 

There are more and more rules designed to keep our secrets secret while, at the same time, there are more ways our secrets are examined and spread about. No one must know that I have high cholesterol, but it could be a matter of national security that someone somewhere knows that Im a closet Pamela Anderson fan.

Disclaimer: None of the references to patients, medications, medical conditions, colons, PDs or Jessica Simpson (forgot to mention my accidental viewing of her music video from The Dukes of Hazzard three dozen times while searching for new glaucoma meds) have any basis in fact. They were on my hard drive way before I bought the computer.

Vol. No: 143:03Issue: 3/15/2006