Patient Confidentiality – What You Should Know

The concept of patient confidentiality that prevents a doctor from divulging health care information about their patients to others has come about for many reasons. However, in today’s age of accessible personal data and details, this is increasingly difficult to do.


Firstly if a person is secure in the knowledge that his or her privacy is protected, they can speak freely about their symptoms and a proper diagnosis can be made. Secondly the information that a doctor obtains from patients should not be misused or compromised.

The Doctor’s Responsibility

It is the duty of the doctor to see to it that their patient’s medical records and health care details are divulged to no one except those directly involved in thepatient’s health care. This could include nursing and support staff and/or for insurance purposes. Other than this, the doctor is required to obtain informed consent from their patient before revealing any details to anyone. Nurses, support staff and others are bound by the same duty of confidentiality as the doctors themselves.

Even if they want to, doctors are not supposed to divulge health care information about their patients; even to near family members. Depending upon where you are, this can be enforced by legal statute. If a doctor fails to keep patient confidentiality, a patient not only loses faith in their doctor but in the medical community as a whole. This kind of behavior also exposes the doctor to legal action and damages.

Even teenagers are entitled to patient confidentiality and teens need not assume that the minute they leave a doctor’s practice, the doctor will be on the phone, informing their parents about what has just happened. Even though a doctor may ask a teenager to confide in their parents and get guidance, they are still bound not to reveal medical information about teens to their parents.

Exceptions to the Patient Confidentiality Rule

If a person gives informed consent the doctor may reveal or use (for research and so on), the medical information of the patient. Informed consent is that which is given after understanding all the facts and possible consequences of one’s actions.

In some cases, the doctor may have to reveal information if the patient is putting others at risk; such as if an HIV infected person continues to have unprotected sex or if a person who has blackouts continues to drive. Instances of abuse may also be among the exceptions to the rule. However even these exceptions are subject to the legal statues of the state or county and are not uniform.