Patient Privacy and Confidentiality in Healthcare – What is it and Why should we care?

Updated on Dec 8th, 2023

Patient Privacy and Confidentiality

We all are aware of the importance of patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare, but maintaining your patient’s privacy can be very challenging in today’s digital era. For instance, when was the last time you updated your privacy and confidentiality policies to meet the challenges and opportunities of the present market? How do you ensure the security and privacy of your patients, employees, and allied networks? In this article, we will be covering all the aspects of patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare why you should care about it

Patient privacy - healthcare solutionsSecurity and privacy are the core aspect of any industry, be it education, legal, or e-commerce. The Healthcare industry is no exception. Protecting a patient’s privacy is the topmost priority of the healthcare system.

However, in today’s highly digital world, maintaining a working knowledge of security threats and confidentiality in healthcare can be tedious. The risk of hacking and selling patients’ records is prevalent these days. The healthcare records are seamlessly accessible on the dark web, and patient privacy has become an extraneous word rather than a crucial term of the healthcare sector. Patient records alongside drug details and financial records are always available on the global platform without much security, and hackers take advantage of these situations to access the vital patient records.

According to sources, the attacks on the healthcare system for accessing patient privacy have increased by nearly 125% in the last five years. As per Statista, almost 53% of the users are more concerned about their online privacy compared to a year ago! That signifies the level of security threat that the online users and the healthcare systems are facing these days. So what actually patient privacy is and who is at risk? Let’s explore more and find all those answers in our article below!

What is Patient Privacy and Confidentiality?

Let us start with an example. Suppose you consult a doctor and discuss your health problems with him/her. You openly share all your issues with your doctor, and one sudden day all your personal medical information becomes public. Now what?

Probably you will never trust the person again, and the chances are high that you may never trust another doctor when it comes to your health issues. That’s where patient privacy comes to play! When you believe that your doctors will not share any of your information about your health and personal information with others, you are more likely to be honest with them. You share all your personal habits, which is the basic block of getting proper medication and faster recovery. Confidentiality in healthcare is the foundation of your medical care.

It is not that you always have to worry about your medical confidentiality, but there are certain times when patient privacy becomes of utmost importance. For instance, back in the 1980s and 1990s, people with HIV and AIDS symptoms were afraid of coming out and consulting a doctor. Reasons were clear – a constant fear that their medical issues would become public, and people will judge them because their disease would not let them go out. That is the main reason why patient privacy is vital in the healthcare sector!

While you may be surprised to know, according to Statista, almost 66% of the data breaches in the healthcare sector occur because of internal attacks! Accidentally publishing information is also one of the leading factors that makes patient privacy much less impactful in the global market.

Patient Privacy and Confidentiality in HealthcareHence it can be said that confidentiality in healthcare is crucial in supporting patients to come out and treat their illness. It is the essential component of human rights whose main aim is to strengthen the patients socially so that they can be treated and their disease can be cured. Confidentiality in healthcare gives them the support that none of their private medical information would go out, and the treatment of their illness will not hamper their social image.

Why should we care about Patient Privacy?

Patient privacy and confidentialityMost healthcare experts today think that merely complying with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is sufficient in empowering patient privacy rules. They quickly fall into the trap that assessing annual security risks, including appropriate controls, and following data breach protocols would do enough in favor of patient privacy. And it’s not their fault too!

Patient privacy and confidentiality, the two most crucial terms today are so overburdened and understaffed that most of the doctors could only manage that much of security protocols. As per BlackBook Surveys, only 3% of the total annual budget is allocated to healthcare cybersecurity cells. That is a minimal amount you can allot to a non-privacy technology! As a result, the healthcare sector fails to provide privacy and confidentiality to its patients.

Here are the top four reasons as to why patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare are much needed today.

1. Patient Safety

The first and foremost reason for caring much about patient privacy is safe. Patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare play a crucial role in defining the patient-doctor relationship, and it also has a significant effect on healthcare treatments. Meaning, if the patients are not assured of complete security and confidentiality in healthcare, then they may not come out openly to discuss their health issues.

That would create a significant impact on the overall healthcare market and long-term trust issues between the healthcare providers and patients. Additionally, any compromise in patient privacy could lead to your healthcare institute’s reputational losses and doctors.

2. Effect on Health

As discussed earlier, a small compromise made in patient privacy could lead to devastating effects on the overall healthcare system, including the patient’s health too! It is often seen that the patients with complete assurance over confidentiality willingly share their personal information with their doctors.

As a result, they receive much better healthcare advice as compared to those who do not share their info. Patient privacy or lack of trust in the healthcare system impacts the overall health of the patient and affects the healthcare system of the country as a whole. If patients are not assured of complete security and patient privacy, then we may have a serious patient safety issue in our country.

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3. Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic oath is another primary reason you should consider patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare while framing your healthcare policies. You must never forget the core promise of the Hippocratic oath that you will not reveal any personal information of your patient until your demise to respect their dignity.

Patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare are the core aspects of the patient-doctor relationship. Your patients have deep trust in you that no matter what, their information will not be shared with anyone, and their social image will not be hampered in any case. If only once that confidentiality is broken, it may lead to a loss in trust in healthcare.

4. HIPAA Act 

Finally, the HIPAA act plays a crucial role in defining the importance of patient privacy in the healthcare system. Actively following all the rules of HIPAA act and paying great heed to your healthcare systems is also as vital as treating the patients effectively. You need to understand that the nation’s health is in your hands, and a single breach in critical patient data could lead to some severe trust issues.

The doctor-patient relationship and the medical sector’s future are all dependent on the satisfaction level of the patients. Their trust behaves as the stepping stone for further development in healthcare systems, and that’s why it should be your duty to safeguard their interests and dignity. Providing patient privacy and confidentiality in healthcare is one such way of doing that.

How to maintain patient confidentiality, privacy, and security?

Hipaa lawThere are many aspects through which the global healthcare sector has been maintaining the dignity and confidentiality of their patients. However, after witnessing the vast gaps in confidentiality in healthcare, one thing is for sure: compliance with HIPAA rules is not enough. For maintaining patient privacy, you have to take more steps.

Here we have listed some of the ways you can ensure complete confidentiality, privacy, and security of your patients while treating them effectively. Let’s dive in!

1. Developing Comprehensive Privacy Policies

So, the first step in maintaining complete confidentiality in healthcare is to frame comprehensive patient privacy policies. As a healthcare institution, you need to collect, store, and discuss information about your patients for betterment. Hence, you should have a security system and policies that safeguard patient privacy.

For that, you can schedule a meeting with your staff and allied healthcare experts to tell them what’s involved in privacy policies. Also, ensure that your medical staff follows all the protocols effectively and gives access to your patients so that they can provide all the strategies that are sufficient enough to protect their privacy and confidentiality. You can even mail a copy of your policies to your patients to let them know how things work at your healthcare institution.

2. Ensuring Strict Adherence to Confidentiality Policy

Once you have framed perfect confidentiality policies, it is now high time to ensure complete adherence to those policies. Not only you, but your staff, allied members, and even the patients should follow all the rules and regulations that you have made for the protection of health information.

You can even speak to your allied partners to discuss how things will be handled and transmitted efficiently. Ensure that all the protocols and policies made by them do not hamper any of your confidentiality policies. If it is so, then ask them to make changes to those rules and regulations. This step would not take much of your time, as you can discuss things in an online meeting or over the phone call.

3. Securing Policies with a Secure System

Securing privacy policies is also one of the crucial steps you need to take to protect your patients’ healthcare information. Witnessing the present-day scenarios, many of the clinics or your healthcare institution may face some issues in saving a vast amount of patient’s data. Furthermore, you may face challenges in sorting the data according to the confidentiality levels.

However, once you have sorted the complete list, you may not have to spend much time sorting all that data. You can even leverage cloud-based software solutions to store all your critical data in the cloud safely. You can access the information anytime you want if it is stored in the cloud, and may even provide access rights to your employees and your allied healthcare members.

4. Investing in the best IT Security Practices

Last but not least is investing in best security practices. Now, we all are aware that security has always been the most concerning aspect for the marketers. Furthermore, when it comes to healthcare and patient privacy, security automatically becomes one of the crucial elements of the healthcare sector.

So, you also need to invest in the best software solutions that assure you to complete the protection of healthcare information. You can consult with an experienced software engineering firm like Matellio to get a feature-rich and secure HIPAA-compliant healthcare system for serving your different healthcare needs. To help you further, we have listed some crucial steps that you need to ensure while developing a healthcare solution for your institution or clinic.

  • Encryption of data and protection of passwords for all your tablets, mobiles, laptops, and PCs as they have high chances of being stolen.
  • You are creating strong passwords for your workplace systems that include capital letters, special symbols, numbers, and so on.
  • A phrase or even a question could also help to secure your workplace systems from hackers and data breach situations.
  • Leverage two-factor authentication.
  • While using WiFi, create two separate networks, one for your staff, and another one for your patients or allied members.

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How can we help?

To conclude, we can say that time has changed significantly today. With the introduction of digitization in the global market, many things have evolved, and the healthcare sector is undoubtedly one of them. Today, data breaches and security issues are at par. Hence, it becomes our responsibility to safeguard our patient’s social image and dignity by implementing patient privacy and confidentiality policies in our healthcare institutes.

We at Matellio, have been serving the healthcare industry for years. Our expert programmers and testers are very much experienced. They promise to develop an error-free and completely secure HIPAA-compliant healthcare system to ensure patient privacy and protection of your healthcare information. Whether healthcare CRM or telehealth apps, we have got a complete range of solutions to cater to your healthcare operations. Experience the perfection of our healthcare solutions in streamlining your services most effectively. Plus, get a free consultation from our experts on your visit. Till then, have a healthy life!

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