The Fundamentals of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality (Guest Blog)
Trust is an important part of the relationship between doctors and their patients. As a patient, you need to trust a doctor to administer the right treatment and to provide sound advice. Beyond treatment, patients also should trust their physician to protect their privacy.
By its nature, the relationship between a doctor and patient requires the sharing of sensitive information. If a patient feels as though the information may be compromised, it could inhibit the free flow of information that is necessary to provide the best care possible. In such cases where personal information is compromised, the patient may feel the need to seek assistance from a personal injury lawyer.
This is why doctors have an ethical duty to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality. In this post, you will learn some of the basics of this essential element of the doctor-patient relationship.
The Purpose of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality
The idea behind this confidentiality is that a person should not have to worry about their personal information becoming public when they seek treatment from a doctor. With the patient confident and comfortable sharing information, the doctor can make a better diagnosis and provide the most appropriate medical care for the needs of the patient.
While doctors do have a professional duty to maintain the privacy of patients, there are circumstances under which some information may be released without the consent of the patient. A doctor might be required to release patient information as the result of insurance issues or because of a court order.
A doctor may also need to share information in a situation involving a patient that cannot make medical decisions as the result of an injury or illness. If an incapacitated patient is incapable of making decisions and the person does not have an advance directive to guide the care, it may be necessary for the doctor to share information with the patient’s next of kin so a decision can be made concerning emergency treatment.
What Does It Cover?
When a patient reveals information to a doctor, it is covered by this professional duty. Along with that, it also covers things like the results of tests and medical images. Doctor-patient confidentiality also covers any diagnoses, treatment recommendations, or professional opinions the doctor may make concerning the patient. In most cases, this would also cover interactions with the staff working for the doctor or healthcare facility.
What Is a Breach of Confidentiality?
A breach occurs when the doctor reveals patient information without consent. However, there are some exceptions. As mentioned previously, a doctor may be required to release information as the result of a court order or to an insurer. They may also have to share information with state healthcare officials. In circumstances where a patient appears to be a threat to his or her own safety or the safety of others, there may be a professional obligation to share this information as well.
Beyond the professional obligations of a doctor, confidentiality is protected by law. If a doctor reveals patient information without receiving the necessary consent, the patient may have the right to take legal action for invasion of privacy or malpractice.
A person’s medical information should never be disclosed without consent. If it is believed that a doctor did violate a patient’s privacy or confidentiality, the patient should seek the advice of a malpractice attorney. An experienced attorney will be able to evaluate the situation and advise you of your legal rights.