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Patients Privacy and Confidentiality


Privacy and confidentiality are important components of universal human rights used in medical care. Healthcare workers are obliged to ensure that discretion in the use of patients’ information is maintained in all settings. Respect for these rights helps in supporting and strengthening the social wellbeing of the sick person. On the other hand, disregard of this principle can lead to loss of trust, which can result in relationship breakdown between health care workers and patients (Dwivedi et al., 2019). Currently, advances in technology utilized in the hospital pose a major challenge for the discretion of personal data. This has prompted debate in the hospital on how patients’ rights are guaranteed by health care workers. This paper describes the application of privacy and confidentiality in the United States.

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Confidentiality refers to the responsibility of staff handling patient information to secure it in the health care system. This is also perceived as an advantage in the communication between individuals in professional relationships. This concept is founded on the Oath of Hippocrates which guides medics to maintain an appropriate patient-health care provider relationship. The professional requirement of upholding confidence when handling health information is reinforced in the professional association codes of ethics (Shenoy & Appel, 2017). This act contains a set of rules limiting access to all information exchanged between healthcare staff and clients.

The American Health Information Management Association Code of Ethics (AHIMA) preserves the confidentiality principle. It regulates the use and disclosure of patients’ information (Patel & Devaraj, 2019). Each state has statutes that offer guidance to professionals who handle sensitive information. For instance, in Illinois, the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act gives requirements for the use, access, and disclosure of mentally ill patient information (Shenoy & Appel, 2017). This rule protects the rights of mentally ill patients.

Breaching Patient Confidentiality

Unintentional confidentiality breaches commonly take place in hospital wards when consultation forms or medical forms are left open. Conducting preoperative assessments in open areas also contributes to the careless disclosure of information. The massive adoption of computerized documentation has led to a wider and faster distribution of medical records. However, it has augmented unauthorized access. For instance, a data breach may take place when passing messages to colleagues through email. For this reason, encryption of data should be utilized when sending and receiving medical reports and crucial health information (Shenoy & Appel, 2017). It is also necessary to encrypt patients’ information saved on personal computers because it is easy to bypass the password. The United States government has endorsed the British Medical Association (BMA) to offer encryption services.


Privacy is based on autonomy rights, and it provides the patient with the authority to regulate how information flows. In addition, this element is viewed as a right of an individual to be left alone when making decisions concerning their sharing of personal information. This right restricts access to personal information (Patel & Devaraj, 2019). Patients’ right to privacy constitutes non-disclosure of patients’ health information. Privacy is vital in forming respectful and effective relationships in the clinic. It offers safe environments for sick people to provide accurate and complete information necessary for the achievement of proper medical care.

Rules Guiding Privacy and Confidentiality

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has provided guidelines that address the privacy and security of patient health data. It has created standard procedures to be used when disclosing health information (Terry, 2017). The HIPAA Privacy Rule controls the release of protected information such as the history of payment records, bank details, home address, and personal medical records held by the organization of health. It also trains staff on mandatory privacy rules and policies that can draw punishments if violated.

The HIPAA rule has been reinforced by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, which protects electronic health information. It facilitates privacy by ensuring that personal data stored in computer networks is not available to unauthorized persons. The ARRA stipulates how people in the health business should handle personal information to avoid the breaching of confidentiality and privacy (Terry, 2017). It also forbids the exchange of individual health information for money without authorization.

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Exemptions to Privacy Laws

Health services are sometimes allowed to share a person’s health information without consent. This sometimes occurs the safety of others is threatened. In addition, when the data can prevent a threat to public health, privacy is also breached. For example, the public can be warned to stay away from a person who has a contagious disease (Patel & Devaraj, 2019). Thus, health information privacy can be violated for the common good of humanity.


It is a moral liability of healthcare workers to honor their clients’ decisions involving health data. Confidentiality determines the quality of care according to the patient. This is because it encourages patients to give personal information that can help in disease diagnosis. On the other hand, health privacy is essential because it promotes autonomy, and prevents embarrassment, discrimination, and economic harm to the patient. Since these rights are vital to patients, the health care staff should endeavor to protect and implement them. Furthermore, it will be prudent for healthcare leaders to inform and train their staff on legal responsibilities and all the health rights.


  1. Dwivedi, A. D., Srivastava, G., Dhar, S., & Singh, R. (2019). A decentralized privacy-preserving healthcare blockchain for IoT. Sensors, 19(2), 326-327.
  2. Patel, P., & Devaraj, S. (2019). American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and county-level health outcomes. Applied Economics Letters, 26(21), 1770-1773.
  3. Shenoy, A., & Appel, J. M. (2017). Safeguarding confidentiality in electronic health records. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 26(2), 337-341.
  4. Terry, N. (2017). Existential challenges for healthcare data protection in the United States. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 3(1), 19-27.

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