Confidentiality in the Medical Practice

Confidentiality in the Medical Practice


Doctors and medical personnel need the health records of their patient’s in order to provide efficient health care. In the same way, Physicians have the duty to keep the information about patient confidence to protect them from harm (Sullivan & American Bar Association, 2004). This is to allow the patient to reveal important information freely. In the past, the confidentiality of the health records was compromised as they passed from one physician to another for consultation. For that reason, the United States congress enacted ‘The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act’ (HIPAA) in 1996. Conversely, the compliance period of the confidentiality imperative was April 2003. This act is designed to safeguard the manner in which sensitive patient records are handled. The main intention of the act is to enhance the value and efficacy of health records structure by developing the electronic dealings. In addition, it seeks to preserve the safety and confidentiality of personal medical information. HIPAA has gone a long way in promoting the transformation of information technology in the health sector. However, the adoption of the systems associated with HIPAA is taxing. Failure to meet the rules and regulations set by HIPAA may lead to serious implications such as sanctions and penalties. HIPPA legislation has had a large impact on the way that confidentiality is addressed in the Medical Practice.


Advantages of HIPAA legislation

Initially, the act was enacted to reduce fraud but extra benefits have been realized (Doscher & American Medical Association, 2002). HIPAA protects the health records of all patients regardless of the gender, size and education background. Patients are now free to reveal personal information that may aid the medical personnel in providing excellent health care. In the past, settling medical bills was the greatest threat to confidentiality because the health records had to be viewed by researchers, insurance companies besides the medical staff. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act need professionals in the medical institutions and other affiliated institutions to protect the privacy of the patient (Sullivan & American Bar Association, 2004). The act has empowered patients because of the power they hold on their health record. Similarly, health records are more secure as errors are eliminated. Patients have the right to observe and request for a change in the information presented. Other advantages of HIPAA include streamlined information, minimum information exchange and patients right to the knowledge contained in their health record.

Streamlined information

HIPAA has been cut out to restructure the transactions and activities of medical institutions in order to protect patient records (Sullivan & American Bar Association, 2004). This requires an approach that is different from the traditional medical practices. The medical industry has gone through a transformation as they implement the necessary measures required. Physical safeguards have been installed in several institutions to store and retrieve confidential information. This includes duplicated hardware and backup systems. Correspondingly, the general security procedure such as installation of antivirus on all the computers is currently a necessity. The safeguard of electronic health information has been improved. Institutions have introduced automatic logoffs and sign-in systems on their databases. Passwords and smartcards have been introduced to verify authenticity. Another area that HIPAA has addressed to streamline information is the administration. The act has dealt with the administration guidelines, practices and measures that are used to safeguard the patient records. The staff and executives have been trained to uphold an appraisal trail that ensures accountability. All these aspects adopted by the medical industry in order to comply with HIPAA have enabled the streamlining of information.

Minimum information exchange

The HIPAA security regulation regulates the access of restricted health information. The classified information may only be disclosed in case of treatment; this allows the physician and nurses to provide diagnosis and medication (Doscher & American Medical Association, 2002). When settling the bills, the patient may share information to receive help. Additionally, the information can be shared to obtain medical care and use the facilities of a particular medical institution. An individual has the right to authorize the admission of the information. While in charge of the protected information, medical personnel should be careful in order to make known only the necessary sections. In the same way, if a patient prefers to be contacted at his business premises as an alternative to home, then the physician is obligated to comply (Ferrell, 2001). These regulations have allowed minimum information exchange. The administration or management of a medical institution is obligated to adopt a secure procedure of accessing information. For example, the management can employ a confidentiality administrator whose role is to train other employees in the area of privacy and supervise the handling of personal health information. This system eliminates the chances of an unofficial party accessing classified health information from the database.

 Patients have rights to knowledge about their record

All the patients have the right to the information contained in their health record (Ferrell, 2001). They have the right to observe and obtain duplicates of their health records. Furthermore, patients can now demand for a change or revision of any information that they consider unfinished or incorrect. They also have the right to appeal for a restraint in the use or disclosure of their information (Sullivan & American Bar Association, 2004). Whenever a physician reveals the patients information for consultation or to offer better treatment, the physician must let the patient know. The use of advanced technology introduced by HIPAA helps the patient access information at their convenience.
Disadvantages of HIPAA legislation in the Physicians Office

HIPAA compliance requires planning and specialized knowledge. Most of the medical institutions are slow to adopt modern technology, so taking into consideration the limited assets and finances available, implementing the HIPAA requirements has been difficult. The rules and regulations set by HIPAA are costly to implement and maintain (Doscher & American Medical Association, 2002). Compliance to the act means additional funds and workload for the organization. The medical industry has been full of bustle as management tries to keep up with the implementation of each section of the act. For example, medical institutions providing services to a large number of people are expected to employ an administrator to supervise the training of personnel. There are several costs associated with the act like penalties. Management is advised to evaluate their financial position carefully before complying with the regulations.


The costs connected with the implementation of the HIPAA can be substantial or intangible. These costs range from hiring new personnel to purchasing of the modern information systems. The cost incurred by the administration cannot be ignored. These are the costs needed by the management to cover the change needed by the organization. It comprises of the funds needed to continue the business while adopting the new policies (Arora & Pimentel, 2005). For example, the cost of employing a consultant who has the expertise required. Other administrative costs include the cost of printing notices to remind or inform both the employees and the patients about the HIPAA regulations. For organizations that participate in the awareness week, the event brings additional costs (Arora & Pimentel, 2005). The organization further needs to monitor their employees and the position of the reception and management offices. The additional technical systems required such as networks and software makes up the technical costs. Sanctions and fines incurred for failure to comply with the HIPAA policies can also be included in the organization budget.

Training of staff

The cost of training staff makes up a significant portion of the entire cost. It includes hiring a personnel and conducting training. HIPAA has a policy that requires all personnel to receive training in the area of safeguarding the patient’s personal information (Arora & Pimentel, 2005). Training is significant to assist the employees in exercising restraint and caution as they handle classified information. It is essential for the exercise to be documented for evidence. HIPAA requires management to employ a privacy administrator who supervises confidentiality and security details. Organizations that prefer to appoint existing employees have the task of training them.


Other privacy laws enacted for privacy of patient information

There are other laws that were enacted before the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act. Such laws include the American recovery and reinvestment act. It was enacted in 2009 and it expands and amends the provisions made in HIPAA. Similarly, the comprehensive alcohol abuse and alcoholism prevention act implemented in 1968 seeks to protect the privacy of patients.


Arora, R., & Pimentel, M. (2005). Cost of Privacy: A HIPAA perspective. Retrieved from

Doscher, M., & American Medical Association. (2002). HIPAA: A short- and long-term perspective for health care. Chicago, CH: AMA Press.

Ferrell, T. (2001). Impact of HIPAA Security Rules on Healthcare Organization. Retrieved from

Sullivan, J. M., & American Bar Association. (2004). HIPAA: A practical guide to the privacy and security of health data. Chicago, CH: American Bar Association, Health Law Section.

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