How Secure Is Your Medical Information Online?

How Secure Is Your Medical Information Online?

Ordering prescription medications online is nothing new. In fact, people choose to purchase prescription drugs online for a multitude of reasons.For many people, shopping online is convenient, particularly for drugs that are taken over the long term. Some health insurance plans offer online pharmacy options that allow policyholders to get drugs at better prices online. And some people purchase prescription drugs online because they believe it protects their personal privacy better than handing over a prescription to a pharmacy technician in a crowded drug store.

When you order prescription medications online, you not only enter the payment information you need to complete the transaction, you also enter personal medical information. This makes the security and privacy practices of your online pharmacy even more critical.

The Security of Your Medical Information

A 2010 formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission by several watchdog groups stated that companies could collect health information online and use it in ways that would put private medical information at risk. Websites targeted in the complaint included major sites like Google, Yahoo, and WebMD. The concerned groups alleged that websites have technological tools that could allow them to target advertising to those with chronic conditions who have researched products or information online, or “eavesdrop” on social media or health website discussions.

Pharmacies are allowed to sell anonymous prescription data to data mining companies that package and sell this information to pharmaceutical companies. Not all pharmacies do this, and it’s not always easy to find out if your local pharmacy sells information to data miners. While all information sold is supposed to be stripped of identifying information, there’s no easy way to know if identifying information is removed in such a way that it can’t be reconstructed. Your safest bet is to ask whether a pharmacy sells information to third parties and avoid those that do if possible.

The Security of Your Payment Information

Online shopping is an everyday occurrence, and today’s consumers are much savvier about protecting payment information online. That said, before you make a payment to an online pharmacy you haven’t used before, read their privacy policy and their online security policy. The payment pages should use Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption, and you should see “https” in the URL rather than just “http.” Secure pages should show a small padlock icon somewhere on the page or in the URL address bar. If you’re not satisfied that a site takes the security of your payment information seriously enough, shop elsewhere. Identity theft can cause major long-term hassles.

What to Look for When You Order Prescription Medications Online

When you order prescription medications online, read the website’s statement about privacy of medical information. This information should be easy to find and should answer your questions about whether they sell de-identified health information to third parties. You should also find a statement about the site’s compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If there is no statement about whether the site sells information to third parties, call and ask. Reputable online sources in the United States should have a phone number you can call with your questions.

If you are satisfied that a site has strong policies in place to protect your personal medical information, check to make sure that it also uses security practices like SSL encryption to protect your financial information. Only proceed with the transaction if the site is up front and clear about protecting both medical and financial information.

At, we do not sell or share personal information with third parties like data mining companies, period. We are HIPAA compliant and have robust physical, electronic, and managerial procedures in place to ensure that all information collected online is completely safeguarded and secure. You should never settle for anything less when you purchase prescription medications online.

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