As medical notes are recorded and transcribed, very little is left off the table of what can be recorded, remembered, and passed along as patient information. It is no surprise, then, that the digitization of medical records has opened patient awareness to concerns and parameters of confidentiality, wondering where boundaries of protection are drawn and enforced.
Let’s take a look at privacy, confidentiality, and the difference between the two, to determine the extent of patient protection in the digital age.
Privacy vs Confidentiality
While the difference between privacy and confidentiality is rooted in law, confidentiality itself is rooted in ethics.
Confidentiality refers to protection of information shared with an attorney, therapist, physician (or other) from being shared with third parties without express consent. In the context of healthcare, confidentiality refers to information disclosed by a patient to a physician during dialogue in a medical visit.
Plainly said: a patient can trust his/her physician to not share personal information regarding her health, home, or lifestyle habits shared in candid conversation during a visit.
Privacy, on the other hand, refers to the legal protection of personal medical information from being shared on a public platform. Privacy legally protects patient records, prescriptions, and examinations from being shared or accessed by anyone other than his/her case physician.
Most health care providers follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a privacy rule that federally restricts personal health information from being disclosed as a public record.
Privacy in Healthcare
While privacy keeps medical records legally bound from public release, it protects only so far as a patient can be identified. That is, many medical records are available to third parties (largely for research purposes), but those records cannot be tied to notes’ respective patient. If personal medical information that reveals patient identity reaches an unauthorized third party without patient consent, the patient has the right to take legal action.
Confidentiality in Healthcare
Confidentiality refers to an individual’s right to have personal, identifiable medical information kept private between patient and physician. That is, information divulged by a patient to a physician is kept private (excluding the transfer of information to relevant medical help; e.g. a pharmacist, who needs to fill a prescription, or a technician, who needs to take an x-ray).
Patient confidentiality is an important component of personal respect for patients and essential criteria to encourage honest, transparent conversations between patient and physicians. Personal information revealed during doctor visits contributes significantly to the understanding of a patient’s case, ongoing health, and prognoses. Maintaining the integrity of patient confidentiality is imperative to encouraging patients to be completely honest about their health and any lifestyle outside of the practice.
Confidentiality and Privacy in Medical Transcription
Health care providers are required to keep private the details of patient health information unless given consent to release the relevant information.
However, as medical dictation and transcription replace hand-written notes and forgotten dialogue, the digitized era of patient information opens itself up to privacy concerns. Patient information is thorough, well-documented, and digital – it seems plausible enough that this sensitive information could be accessed by anyone, right?
While this concern is a big consideration, it is continually addressed and protected through immense cyber-security measures that stand to safeguard patient information and ensure their right to privacy in healthcare.
At Mercedes Transcription, we draw from over 25 years of experience in medical transcription services to bring you superior transcription quality, customer care, and affordability. Our customer service team is your personal concierge, available for consultation and questions at any time, to ensure that your practice is always providing optimal patient care.
Learn more about our services and how to protect patient confidentiality by reaching out to a member of our team, today.