Your Health Confidentiality Matters
Your personal health information is just that — it’s personal and by law belongs to you. It shouldn’t be known by anyone who is not involved in your care. When dealing with your physician, you can trust that he or she will treat the information, and you, with great care and respect.
Personal health information includes anything that identifies you: your health history, past care, test results, health number, payment or eligibility details, long-term care plans, and the name of a substitute decision-maker. This covers information collected in written or electronic form, or orally.
Maintaining confidentiality and privacy is a legal and professional obligation for physicians and all health care providers — and it’s also part of being an effective caregiver. When patients know their information is secure, they are likelier to be more open and supply what’s needed to obtain the best advice from their health care professionals.
Confidentiality and privacy are among the standards all health care providers are expected to meet and maintain. Our care providers are health information ‘custodians’ and they need the consent of patients before sharing that information.
Sometimes consent is implied as your doctor can assume it’s okay to share your information with additional members of your care team, for the purposes of providing care. Other times, you have to give express consent to share your personal health information beyond your circle of care.
Only in specific circumstances can health information custodians provide that information to a third party without consent. This includes situations where disclosure is mandatory, like managing risk (such as reporting a concern about child endangerment to the Children’s Aid Society) or legal proceedings (when a summons, subpoena or court order requests patient records).
Health care professionals should also ensure that other staff, patients, or clients don’t overhear conversations that involve your information and they must never look at the personal health information of patients who are not in their care.
Protecting confidentiality is important outside the walls of care too. For instance, your doctor should never talk about your personal health information in public areas and must exercise caution when leaving a message or sending an email since others might be able to access it. Relationships with health care professionals are based on trust — and ensuring privacy with respect adds to that trust.
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