Importance of Patient Confidentiality

Health care professionals have a duty to maintain confidentiality for their patients. Health professionals may not disclose any patient information revealed by a patient or discovered by a physician in connection with the treatment of a patient. Patients put all of their trust into healthcare professionals and it is their job to protect patients’ private information. Consequences will be made if patient confidentiality is disclosed. The security of patient information is crucial because there are many risk factors that could occur.

The disclosing of patient information can put patients at risk. Many problems could occur if patient information isn’t kept confidential. Someone could get their social security number, steal their identity or even find out their address. Other healthcare providers gossiping about a patients’ information such as an STD, could get around to others that the patient may know personally and that can mentally, emotionally and physically affect a patient.

In general, AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics states that the information disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree.

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(“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 1)

If patient confidentiality is revealed than there are consequences that will follow. Health care professionals could be terminated for a certain period of time or completely fired from the job depending on the situation. Health care providers or even the facility could be sued. Also health care providers could lose patients’ trust because they could hear by word of mouth that patient information is not secure, and they are not a trustworthy facility.

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Illegal actions could potentially mean jail time or court depending on the situation.

Maintaining patient confidentiality is a legal duty as well as an ethical duty. (“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 2) The purpose of health care provider’s is to make the patient feel free to disclose any and all of their history so the physician can treat the patient appropriately. “If patients are not confident that there interactions will be held in confidence, they may be inhibited from telling their doctors about important things. (Alta, Anderson, Steele, 2000, para.3)

There are times when private information has to be disclosed to outside parties with the patients’ consent such as insurance companies, parent/guardian, health departments or the court may have to subpoena patient’s medical records if patients’ do not want to comply to let others view them. This is called a breach of confidentiality. This means patient records can be disclosed to a third party, without patient consent or court order, of private information that the physician has learned within the patient-physician relationship.

Patient record have to be reviewed by other parties to get their insurance companies to pay for their care and other doctors or facilities may have to view their history because sometimes patients have to be referred to other doctors. The general rule regarding release of a patient’s medical record is that information contained in a patient’s medical record may be released to third parties only if the patient has consented to such disclosure. (“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 6)

Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) in which offers protection for personal health information. It places limits on how confidential health information can be shared with others.

The HIPPA rules and regulations give patients better security over their information. Health care providers have to abide by a series of privacy standards and if they do not, they will have penalties to abide by for not following those standards. Within the HIPPA guidelines, patients have the right to request a copy of their records. It puts safeguards in place for confidential health information collected, maintained, used, or transmitted in electronic form.

Patient confidentiality can be avoided if healthcare providers remain professional at all times and follow all rules, laws and regulations. Facilities need to have meetings on a weekly basis so they can all remain updated on all rules and issues that need to be addressed. Communication is what all health care providers need to provoke because it helps keep everyone on the same page and if there are any issues health professional should be able to communicate well with other individuals to address a situation in a professional manner.

Overall maintaining patient confidentiality is the main duty to provide the best care for patients because making patients feel at ease with their health care providers gives them the trust they need to know they will be well taken care of. If this bond of trust is broken, patients may be hesitant to seek care or may not share important information needed to provide the best care. The HIPPA laws have strengthened patient confidentiality. Keeping patient information confidential is more than just the right thing to do, it is the law.


In text Citation: (Alta, Anderson, Steele, 2000, para.3)
(“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 1)
(“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 2)
(“American Medical Association,” 2013, Para. 6)
Alta, V. Anderson, JD. Steele, D. (September 26, 2000) Confidentiality and Privacy Outline. Webmedia Retrieved May 27, 2013 from

Cite this page

Importance of Patient Confidentiality. (2016, May 14). Retrieved from

Importance of Patient Confidentiality

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