Imagine if you shared some personal information with someone, and then that person went off and told someone else. You assumed that the information would be kept just between the two of you, so now you feel hurt, betrayed, and embarrassed. Your trust was broken and the relationship has been damaged.
Now imagine that the person who broke your trust was a doctor and that the information they shared was your diagnosis! You’d be angry, hurt, and confused. You would probably switch doctors or skip getting medical care. Or you might only tell your doctor some of what’s going on with you. And that could jeopardize your care. This is why patient confidentiality in healthcare is so important—it builds trust, helps you get the best care possible, preserves the doctor’s reputation, and it is also a requirement under the law. Nobody gets to share your healthcare information without your permission.
Patient Confidentiality Protects the Patient and Others
The reality is that some diseases and illnesses, such as sexually transmitted diseases and mental health illnesses, still have stigmas attached to them. As sad as it is, a person’s reputation or standing in the community could be harmed if their medical conditions were shared publicly.
As a patient, you might feel embarrassed or ashamed to have your health conditions shared with others. You might wonder what your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers think of you. It’s possible you would hesitate to share important information with your medical team in the future, or you might feel discouraged from seeking treatment at all. Both of those decisions could hinder your treatment, affect your prognosis, and even harm others. Especially in the midst of a health crisis, it’s important for providers to know the path of a disease and how individuals might be affected.
It Prevents Discrimination
Whether in work or in life, you want to be judged by your abilities—not by your illnesses or chronic conditions. Keeping private matters private ensures that employers, schools, housing directors, community centers, and other organizations don’t judge you by what illness you may or may not have. Ignorance can cause people to have misguided ideas about sicknesses. And their fears and negative stereotypes can have a negative impact on you.
Patient Confidentiality Builds Trust
Trust is everything in healthcare. When you can provide a safe space for patients, they are more willing to seek care for their medical issues and they’re likely to be more open and honest about their symptoms during their visits. On a larger scale, when the medical community is trusted, the public is more willing to participate in research studies and healthcare campaigns that can prevent the spread of certain illnesses.
It Preserves the Doctor’s Reputation
Would you be willing to recommend a doctor that had betrayed your trust? Would you leave that doctor a good review online or speak highly of them in the community? You certainly wouldn’t. But on the other hand, you probably would recommend a doctor that values patient confidentiality. Trust builds relationships, which in turn, builds a reputation. If doctors can be trusted, they can build good relationships with their patients and also preserve their reputations—not just in their local communities but in the medical community as well.
The Law Requires Patient Confidentiality
Keeping patient information confidential isn’t just ethically sound. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Privacy Rule legally binds healthcare workers from sharing information about patients’ mental or physical conditions, their medical care, payments for healthcare, or personally identifiable information such as social security numbers. Violations of the HIPAA law can result in steep financial penalties or imprisonment, not to mention a ruined reputation and career.
Patient confidentiality is important for both patients and doctors, and it preserves the integrity of the medical community. If you want to be a part of that community, there are a variety of career paths that you can follow. At Charter College, we offer health care training programs in Health Care Administration, Medical Billing and Coding, Allied Health, and Nursing. Call 888-200-9942 or fill out the form to learn more.