Confidentiality of Medical Information

Confidentiality of Medical Information

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The law does not give permission to the health care professionals to disclose the medical information of the patients. It is the right of a patient to have his or her personal identifiable information to be confidential. This medical information is suppose to only be available to the physician of record as well as other necessary health care and insurance personal. Confidentiality of patient was protected by federal statute, as of 2003. Passing of federal regulations which was the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was facilitated by the requirement of having privacy as well as protection of personal records and data in an electronic medical records environment and third party insurance payers.
The meaning of patient confidentiality is that personal and medical information that are provided to the providers of health care cannot be disclosed to others not unless the patient has provided authorization for the release. In fact permission is not supposed to be granted to health care professionals to disclose the patient’s medical information. This is because there could be professional or personal problems by disclosing the medical information of the patients for patients depends on the physicians in keeping private their medical information, American Psychological Association (2003).
Normally it becomes difficult for medical records to be completely sealed up. The greatest factor that affects confidentiality is when clinicians turn to share medical information as case studies. In any case such data happens to be published in professional journals, then the patient’s identity is never divulged and the entire data that identifies the patient become either eliminated or changed. However, if at all the confidentiality is breached, the patient may have the right of suing, British Medical Association (2008).
Another greatest threat to medical privacy takes place since many of the medical bills are settled through a particular health insurance, which can be private or public, Radford, Roger, (2002). In this occasion it becomes very hard for the medical information to be confidential. There is viewing of the health records occasionally by just not physicians and their staffs only but as well medical laboratories, employees of insurance companies, researchers, public health insurance and a lot of others. In any case an employer is providing health insurance; the employee files may then be accessed by the employer and designated employees.
The requirement of the 1996, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is that every organizations and professionals to guard the privacy of their customers and patients, Carter P.

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I. (2002). Patients are supposed to provide written permission in order for their medical and health related information to be released. At all levels employees are needed to maintain confidentiality. More to that there has been put place policies for a given period. It was the need of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) for accreditation to be maintained. Every release of the confidentiality is suppose to identify the type of the information that is to be released, the permitted people or groups that can access the information, and provide limit to the period of time that the release is supposed to be valid.
NMC (2004) code of professional conduct section five, applies to confidentiality. It states that every registered nurse, midwives or health visitor must protect confidential information. The importance of the patient confidentiality is that it creates a good relationship between the practitioner and the patient, and the practitioner has the obligation of keeping the information private as per the Hippocratic Oath. In any case there is dissemination of personal information without the permission of the patient, the confidence in medical profession might be eroded and expose professionals of the health care to legal action, General Medical Council (2009).
Moreover, duty of confidentiality is much important due to its assistance in preventing the act of discrimination against individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS, D. Pataki (1995). HIV infection always creates a risk of stigma as well as discrimination which is not realized with other diseases. Having knowledge of other peoples’ status of HIV causes inferences about their social contact, drug taking habits or sexual behaviors. Individuals living with HIV may undergo problem of loosing certain benefits in any case their identity are disclosed, Christine Stewart (1993). Like, a direct community effect is that such individuals are going to face rejection from the members of community. These people may even loose their friends, jobs and even housing, E. Farmer (1996).
Many at times physicians tend to be sued by patients that have realized that their information have been released without them giving permission. The cost of legal action is always burdensome to both sides even though there is no prevalence of the plaintiffs. Every state as well as the federal government has put in place laws that are protecting the general confidentiality of the heath care information, with more stress to the mental health and communicable diseases information, Richard A. Leiter, Ed. Gale, 1997. Like, in 1960s substance and alcohol abuse were considered as mental illnesses, having confidentiality of the patient being determined through the laws in every state, due to the fact that during that time the state had the responsibility for mental health care and treatment.
However, at the beginning of 1970s, the increase in the individuals who needed treatment in substance abuse came to the attention of federal government, this was due to the fact that drug related activity, as well as treatment for substance abuse, could have been the basis for criminal prosecution on a federal level. The conclusion of the Congress was that this could stop people who were in need of treatment to stop looking for it. Enacting of the HIPAA was to provide a strict confidentiality law and limit discloser of in formation that was capable of revealing the identity of the patients, Pabrai, U. A. (2003).
Confusion came about when practitioner who was responsible in treating substance abusers was to follow two distinct practices for patients’ confidentiality. The first set of requirement was mandated through the state, while the other one was being dictated through the federal government. Due to varying level of protection that was being offered by state mental health laws, there was increase in the confusion. Even as every state specify exceptions to confidentiality, minority of the number have spelled out the essential elements of valid permission for disclosure of information regarding mental health, Department of Health (2003).
A section of the states are currently allowing the disclosure of the following types of information concerning mental health without the permission of the patient: to researchers; to other treatment providers; to families under certain circumstance; to public health officials; to health care services payers or other sources of financial assistance to the patient; to officials of law enforcement under certain circumstances; to third parties that the mental health professional feels that could be endangered by the patient; and to agencies that are charged with oversight of the health care system or the practitioners system, Landrum, S. E. (2003).
Before 2003, providers were highly concerned that such exceptions were not being dealt with uniformly, mainly when payers and providers had carried on business across state lines, Sugarman, J. (2003). Due to this, neither open-ended disclosures that were specifying neither the parties to whom disclosure was to be made nor the specific information, was allowed to be revealed.
According to Singapore Nurses and Midwives Act (2006), the nursing profession regulates itself by setting its own standards for education and practice, as well as making sure that such standards are met. Nevertheless, such privileges are not supposed to be taken for granted and for them to be safeguarded, nurses are suppose to maintain trust of the public through showing that they are responsible and accountable in upholding standards of practice, maintaining competence as well as fitness to practice.
When confidentiality is practiced, it depicts the level of competency of the professionals. Due to the fact that competency of the professionals is essential so that the patients’ information is kept secret, their competency has to undergo checking. In order for this to be achieved a body was created (National Competency Standards for midwives), which was released by the ANMC in January 2006. The body was to offer a nationally framework which is consistence, where assessment of these professional competency and performance of midwives was to take place, ANMC Competency Standards (2006).
The fundamental right to privacy which has been guaranteed by the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the constitution of U.S. gives protection against unwarranted invasion of privacy by federal or state entities, Richard A. Leiter, Ed. Gale, 1997. The U.S Supreme Court give acknowledgement that the doctor-patient relationship is one which evokes constitution rights of privacy. This relationship is developed when the confidentiality of the patient is well considered to his/her satisfaction.
Conclusion
Right to confidentiality of a person on the part of the providers of healthcare is held by government as well as the law. Such position is reaffirmed as well in the language of the codes of professional conduct. Both the ethical and the legal principles of confidentiality tend to be rooted in a set of values concerning the relationship between the patient and the caregiver. It is important for a patient to trust a caregiver in order to facilitate a warm and accepting relationship to develop.

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