Our health issues are a highly personal concern, and keeping people out of our medical records is of great concern to many people today. Thankfully, strict laws give doctors many tools to keep that information from general circulation. Here are some of the methods used by doctors to keep your private data private.
While many people fear that their private health information will wind up in the hands of random individuals, the truth is that health information is subject to some of the most stringent legal regulations of any category of data in the world. As a general rule, a health care provider is only authorized to share your information with staff members involved with your care and with immediate family members. Anyone else making a request for information will be turned away unless they have a compelling legal argument as to why they should have access. Note that exactly who counts as immediate family may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; if you have concerns, you should ask your medical provider.
Of course, you may need to get information about your health out to people beyond your immediate family and the medical staff that is treating you. This is why you should look into signing some consent forms. Consent forms let you authorize an individual to access your health information without the need for them to be in one of the protected categories listed above. By designating someone to get updates while you are unconscious after certain procedures, you can facilitate the passing of that information among your friends and loved ones.
Protections like those listed above stem from a complicated web of laws governing health information and how it can legitimately be handled by those whose jobs require its collection. One of the most important of these laws is HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA provisions limit the means by which information about health can be collected, stored, and disseminated in a wide variety of ways, such as regulating the security provisions for that information. This ensures that your information doesn’t fall into unauthorized hands, whether by accident or deliberate action.
Legal Confidentiality Protections
Because of the strength of these and other health information regulations concerning privacy, medical providers have a good reason to avoid disclosing information that they should not. After all, regulations and laws don’t just establish standards, but also list penalties for those who fail to live up to their end of the bargain. These penalties range from damage to professional association memberships to financial or even criminal liability. Because of this, your doctors have ample reason to deny requests for information beyond your agreed disclosure levels. Exceptions are generally only granted for situations where someone’s health or life are in serious danger as a result of nondisclosure.
With such strong legal protections in place, there is no need to worry about the disclosure of your personal information in most cases. Doctors and lawmakers are working so you can take your mind off such worries and concentrate on feeling better.