We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Healthcare Confidentiality?

By J.M. Densing
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Healthcare confidentiality, which also can be referred to as doctor-patient privilege or patient confidentiality, is the obligation of a health care practitioner to keep a patient’s healthcare information private. This obligation dates all the way back to Hippocrates and is legally enforceable. Keeping a patient's records private is vital for many reasons, particularly because it allows the patient to feel free to disclose any information needed about his or her health without fear of disclosure to other persons or organizations. In most cases, a patient must authorize the release of any information in writing, but there are several instances where patient information may be shared without written consent.

The obligation to maintain healthcare confidentiality has existed since the time of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. The famous Hippocratic Oath that is still sworn by doctors today includes an explicit promise to "keep inviolably secret" any information learned about a patient in the course of performing a doctor's professional duties. This obligation was made enforceable by law in the U.S. with the passage of the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, in 1996. This law includes provisions for the maintenance of confidentiality and makes violations punishable by fines and imprisonment.

The American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics, also stresses the importance of healthcare confidentiality. The AMA maintains that this ethical obligation is vital to facilitate proper patient care. Confidentiality allows the patient to feel free to fully disclose any information that might be useful to the doctor for treatment purposes, thereby allowing the doctor to make informed decisions about patient care. It also allows the patient to have control over who has access to his or her most private medical details. Healthcare confidentiality can also protect patient privacy by preventing disclosure of information to acquaintances or loved ones until the patient decides to share it.

To preserve healthcare confidentiality, a patient's private medical records can only be released to another person or organization if that patient signs a written authorization. The form authorizing this is typically called a release; it usually specifies who will be releasing information, what information is to be released, and to whom. According to the rules of healthcare confidentiality, this is necessary for any access to medical records by anyone with a few important exceptions.

The exceptions where written consent is not required include the parents of a minor child, medical personnel involved in the patient's treatment, and when a patient is transferred from one facility to another. There are also a few very special instances where the disclosure of private information by healthcare practitioners is actually required by law. Such instances include if a patient suffered an injury caused by a weapon, if there is reasonable suspicion of abuse, or if the patient is likely to harm him- or herself or another person.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.