Confidentiality of Medical Information

Confidentiality of Medical Information

Medical confidentiality is a concept of doctors maintaining the secrecy of all the information received by a patient during treatment.

Patients on a daily basis, share sensitive and secret personal information to health care provider such as doctors, physicians etc. Therefore, it is the topmost priority of health care provider to maintain privacy and confidentiality. 

The medical information given to the health care provider shall not be divulged to others unless the patient provides his or her consent to do so or required by the law. 

Though it is very rare to keep the medical information of a patient completely undisclosed as a very breach of confidentiality occurs when the medical records are passed by the doctors to others and refer it as one of their case studies. If the information is published publicly, the identity of the patient is never disclosed, and if it appears in any way, then the patient has the right to sue.


Laws governing the Confidentiality of Medical Information

According to the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, it has been stated in chapter 2 (2.2) that Patience and delicacy should characterize the physician. Confidences concerning individual or domestic life entrusted by patients to a physician and defects in the disposition or character of patients observed during medical attendance should never be revealed unless their revelation is required by the laws of the State. Sometimes, however, a physician must determine whether his duty to society requires him to employ knowledge, obtained through confidence as a physician, to protect a healthy person against a communicable disease to which he is about to be exposed. In such an instance, the physician should act as he would wish another to act toward one of his own family in like circumstances.

Furthermore, Chapter 7 (7.14) state that The registered medical practitioner shall not disclose the secrets of a patient that have been learned in the exercise of his / her profession except – 

i) in a court of law under orders of the Presiding Judge; 

ii) in circumstances where there is a serious and identified risk to a specific person and / or community; and 

iii) notifiable diseases.

Chapter 8 gives the provision for the consequences of the violation. Regulation 8.2 explains that if any complaint is made concerning professional misconduct can be brought before the appropriate Medical Council for Disciplinary action. Upon receipt of any complaint of professional misconduct, the appropriate Medical Council would hold an inquiry and give the opportunity to the registered medical practitioner to be heard in person or by a pleader. If the medical practitioner is found to be guilty of committing professional misconduct, the appropriate Medical Council may award such punishment as deemed necessary or may direct the removal altogether or for a specified period, from the register of the name of the delinquent registered practitioner. Deletion from the Register shall be widely publicized in the local press as well as in the publications of different Medical Associations/ Societies/Bodies.

And under chapter 8- (8.5), if the decision is pending on the complaint registered against him, then the appropriate Council may restrict the physician from performing the procedure or practice which is under research/scrutiny.