One of the greatest things you can do for the patients in your care is to protect their privacy. Securing patient privacy goes beyond safeguarding obvious identifying details such as their name, address, or phone number. It also includes identifiable health information such as diagnoses, test results, and medications they take. There are many ways to ensure that your patient’s private information remains confidential.

How Can I Protect my Patient’s Privacy?

A vital part of properly managed patient care is sharing patient data with approved caregivers and between providers. However, it is necessary to know what information should be shared and what shouldn’t. The way that information is shared is also important. It is crucial for healthcare organizations to continuously look for ways to safeguard their patient’s privacy. A few methods to consider include the following.

  • Educating staff to be discrete with patient information
  • Using a HIPAA compliant cloud fax service, not all services are HIPAA compliant make sure they offer this option to send fax online
  • Regularly perform security risk assessments
  • Encrypting patient data
  • Having up-to-date knowledge of federal and state laws regarding maintaining patients’ confidential information

Protecting Patient Privacy Improves the Patient and Provider Relationship

Protecting a patient’s private data can potentially improve patient outcomes. A patient’s medical record contains some of the most private and personal details in their lives. It is necessary that patients are confident that this information is secure. If they have concerns that these details could be placed in the wrong hands, they may be more likely to avoid seeking treatment for illness or behaving in other ways they think will preserve their privacy but could also cause them to go without much-needed care.

In a study conducted in 2005, nine years after the implementation of HIPAA, 67% of responders indicated that they had concerns about their health privacy. Patients who do not feel assured that their health information is private are less likely to wholly disclose health concerns of a sensitive nature. This can ultimately lead to undertreated or untreated disease. The trust needed for a healthy patient and provider relationship begins with the patient’s confidence that their private data is secure. 

The Ethics of Privacy Protection

There are four basic principles of medical ethics, all of which are pertinent to the ethics of protecting patient privacy. They include:

  • Beneficence. To act in the patient’s best interest
  • Nonmaleficence. Do not inflict harm
  • Autonomy. Allow the patient to self-govern and make decisions about their care
  • Justice. Treating patients equally and fairly

Physicians and medical staff are ethically obligated to secure patient data. The breakdown of that protection puts both the patient and the organization involved with providing care at risk. A breach of that information could cause patients to suffer stigma, embarrassment, or even discrimination. An organization that allows patient records to be disclosed to an unauthorized source could face major legal repercussions. safeguarding personal privacy protects the interest of individuals. It also promotes personal autonomy, dignity, and respect.

Privacy is a basic human right. Keeping a patient’s health information confidential is an integral part of patient care. It not only benefits the individual patient but society as a whole. Properly protected health data can facilitate better patient trust, enhanced treatments, improved diagnostics, and superior care. Patients deserve to feel that they have control over their personal health information and that this data is secure.