What You Should Know about Patient-Doctor Confidentiality

A trusting relationship between patient and doctor is vital to help gather the information that physicians will use to make sound medical care. But even in this professional setting, trust is earned and needs to be maintained. Whether it is your initial consultation or a routine checkup, your physician needs to keep patient-doctor confidentiality. As a patient, you need to be aware of the extent of the patient-doctor confidentiality, including your privilege and responsibilities. This way, you will know when you need to disclose or secure details about your health.

Patient-Doctor Confidentiality

In the medical context, confidentiality limits the access to any information discussed between patient and doctor. It is the principle that you shouldn’t worry about seeking treatment for fear that your condition will be disclosed to other people. This professional relationship aims to make you feel at ease and allow you to share relevant information, so your healthcare provider can make a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Confidential Information

The following information is kept confidential while the physician is overseeing the medical care of their patient and even after the treatment has been completed or if the patient passes away.

  • All information regarding the patient discussed with the doctor or other medical staff including name, appointment details, examination results, professional assessments, medication, and procedures.
  • Any opinion or diagnosis the physician develops after any examination or assessment.
  • All known medical records such as medical history, details about preexisting conditions, and laboratory reports.
  • All communication shared with the physician and other medical staff involved during treatment

Patient Privilege

Under the law, you are the owner of your health information and medical records. You can also decide who can have access to your files. If you need a copy, you have the right to access it yourself.  Also, you have the right to privacy. This means medical professionals need your consent before sharing your health information with others.

For example, if you are visiting a new doctor, you have the option to share your past medical records with them. You can do this by giving your other doctors consent to send your medical file to your new physician. In some cases, your healthcare provider may request a copy of your past records like when getting treated in hospitals and when entering a Tampa drug rehab or similar treatment facilities. Although you are not obliged to do so, giving the medical staff access to your information may help them provide the best treatment for you. Rest assured that the staff is also required to protect the patients’ confidentiality and privacy, so they cannot share your condition or treatment with other people except those who are part of the medical team.

On the other hand, patient-doctor confidentiality does not cover the people with whom you may have shared information. For example, you asked a friend or relative to accompany you to your doctor’s appointment. If they were present during the consultation, there is no law prohibiting them from discussing what they have learned with other people.

Exemptions to Privacy Laws

There are certain exceptions to patient-doctor confidentiality. In some cases, health information may be shared without consent including:

  • Emergency situations where you may require urgent medical care and you are unable to communicate. For example, you were unconscious and doctors and nurses need to know if you are allergic to any medications.
  • If the information can reduce or prevent a serious threat to public health or safety such as when someone has a contagious illness and the general public needs to be warned or if a public health official needs to be notified.
  • Medical injuries or conditions that may prompt a criminal investigation. Some examples are gunshot wounds or suspected child abuse.
  • When the patient may be a danger to themselves or others.
  • If there are any complications related to health insurance.

On the other hand, patients may waive their confidentiality privilege if they file for a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Since the center of the suit is the alleged breach or medical condition, your consent is considered implied from the beginning.

Breach of Confidentiality

Any details shared between you and your physician during the course of treatment must remain private. The patient-doctor confidentiality is breached if the doctor divulged information to a third party without your authorization. If this happens, it’s best to talk to your doctor first and raise your concern. However, if the breach included some type of harm on you as a patient, you may want to consult an attorney and discuss the possible course of action you may take against the medical provider.

Since details of your health that you discuss with your physician are protected under patient-doctor confidentiality, you can be assured that your medical condition will remain private. As a patient, you have the responsibility to know when to withhold or give access to your medical records. This can be vital when your well-being or someone’s life depends on it.

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