What Is Doctor Patient Confidentiality?

When you establish a doctor-patient relationship with a health care practitioner, anything you say or clearly convey to this individual is in the strictest professional confidence. Federal and state laws exist to protect the doctor-patient privilege, making disclosure to third parties against the law. The physician cannot use information communicated within the doctor-patient relationship in a court of law or during legal proceedings. Understanding doctor-patient confidentiality, and what it could mean during a lawsuit, is important for any patient in Missouri so speak with a Kansas City medical malpractice attorney if you believe your doctor-patient confidentiality was breached.

Understanding the Doctor-Patient Privilege

There are certain relationships the law protects by their very nature. These relationships require one or both parties’ consent before anyone can disclose information to a third party. Examples of these relationships are attorney-client, therapist-patient, and doctor-patient. Such relationships involving sensitive personal information are guaranteed the right to open communication between the parties, without fear of someone disclosing information. Confidentiality serves to protect the interests of everyone involved.

Since the goal of doctors is to make patients feel safe and comfortable, confidentiality is a must. Otherwise, a patient could be afraid to disclose all symptoms or information about a condition. This could lead to misdiagnosis, delayed treatment, and even patient injury or wrongful death. As soon as a doctor agrees to see a patient in a professional context, he or she understands that a privilege exists. From this point on, the doctor may only use the information the patient gives for the patient’s benefit. Information held in confidence includes things the patient says, a doctor’s opinions about the patient, medical records, and lab reports.

A breach of doctor-patient confidentiality occurs when the doctor reveals sensitive information to a third party without the patient’s consent. There are exceptions to what qualifies as a breach. For example, a doctor has the right to speak out if the patient admits plans to harm someone else. Disclosures are also legal if the court orders the physician to produce medical records regarding the patient. If a doctor’s unauthorized disclosure causes some type of harm to the patient, the patient could have a cause of action against the offender.

how does doctor patient confidentiality work

What Happens If a Doctor Breaches Confidentiality?

Doctor-patient confidentiality continues indefinitely from the time the patient first sees the doctor. The law continues to protect a patient’s medical records even if the patient dies. If a physician breaches doctor-patient confidentiality, resulting in harm to the patient, he or she could sue the individual or medical facility for malpractice or invasion of privacy. If the employee suffers job termination because of the disclosure, he or she could sue the provider for breach of confidentiality.

There are laws that allow doctors to share certain pieces of information without a patient’s permission. For example, physicians typically must share information about venereal diseases, and other such infection risks with state health departments for the safety of the greater population. If you’re confused about a situation involving a doctor’s potential breach of your doctor-patient confidentiality, consult a personal injury attorney in Kansas City. You may have a case against the medical professional.