Keeping informed about good practice and guidelines is essential to maintaining and developing medical standards. This is arguably more relevant within the mental health sector where it is hoped that patient confidentiality and record keeping comply with applicable privacy standards and legal regulation. However a question arises, and quite frequently at that, namely, when is it acceptable for your doctor to pass on patient information to another clinician, a third party, or even a family member?
This is well covered in the Irish Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners where the applicable standards and rules governing patient confidentiality are set out.
Important principles of confidentiality set out in the Guide are:
As well as this, the Guide also offers guidance for medical personnel on what to do in certain situations where medical records are sought by those other than the patient itself:
The certain limited circumstances in which a doctor may release patient information are listed as follows:
Of particular interest for those curious about their patient records, the section on the Disclosure of Patient Records to other Healthcare Professionals highlights ways in which collected data and patient identity is protected – such as anonymizing data, employing clinical audit and quality assurance systems, informing patients that their data will be shared with other clinicians, and the education and training of clinical staff.
The Guide also helps outline important acts and resources which can help those who are seeking further enlightenment on medical record keeping:
It is vital for healthcare practitioners as well as patients to remain informed about current guidelines and regulations concerning patient records and confidentiality, so that should a breach occur, it can be rectified immediately and the patient made aware of the occurrence.
The Guide can be accessed on the Irish Medical Council’s website: (www.medicalcouncil.ie ).
Clinical Administrative Assistant
Currently studying Healthcare Ethics and Law