Medical Privacy

    Key Questions (by Brittany James)

    What is the Largest Difficulty Faced When Trying to Preserve Patient Confidentiality?

    HIPAA has long been the forerunner in advocating patients’ privacy rights. There is a companion HIPPA Fast Fact Sheet that lays out patient privacy rights and the laws concerning them. Another good overview of the laws and practices governing patient confidentiality is the AMA: Patient Confidentiality website.

    The biggest problems in protecting patient rights seem to stem from inattentiveness to the procedures laid out in HIPAA. The most common means of dealing with this problem include higher severity for rule-breakers, regular reminders of these punishments, and conducting compliance reviews, all of which are outlined in the HIPAA Enforcement Procedures section of the Cal HIPAA website.

    Why Have Patient Privacy Violations Become Such a Large Problem Recently?

    Dr. Miguel Faria, in his report on patient privacy and confidentiality lays attributions to the problem directly on the three branches of our government who he says are “making a mockery of patient record confidentiality and the privacy (and trust) of the patient-doctor relationship.”

    Additionally, many sources, including a report from The Milbank Quarterly Evaluating the Quality of Medical Care, show a current trend toward viewing patient information as public property. These views are backed up in the current reports and efforts for change in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA).

    What Approaches are Being Used to Try to Protect Patients’ Privacy?

    The most recent advances in handling patient privacy have come with the advent of computerized medical information. However, the effectiveness of this technique is yet to be seen, and many potential pitfalls have been examined. In particular, The Health Law Resource detailed a report on this issue and its capabilities.

    Furthermore, the Patient Privacy & Network Protection file gives a view into an individual program and its components. This brief report outlines solutions to handling medical information correctly and the benefits for their specific program.

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