This blog post is a writing assignment for MAST 1010: Legal & Ethical Concerns in the Medical Office, part of the Health Care Management (HC23) Associate of Applied Science Degree program at Southern Crescent Technical College.
The article “Letter: Privacy and patient confidentiality in times of Covid-19” published in Medico-Legal Journal is relevant to current events in health care regarding confidentiality laws. The related event occurred in India during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The authors state that patients in India have the right to privacy or confidentiality and that providers generally must protect PHI and not release patient information without consent. However, exceptions to the rule exist, such as disclosing patient information for a court order or when theva public interest outweighs the individual’s right to privacy, such as reporting a notifiable disease during an outbreak. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the government in India utilized these exceptions to benefit public health and prevent the virus’s spread. The article discusses various measures used by multiple governments to contain diseases, such as social distancing and quarantine. Still, they also raise concerns about privacy due to some of these practices, like tracking apps. The authors acknowledge the public benefit but assert that safeguards must be in place to protect privacy as much as possible to prevent discrimination or stigmatization. They also maintain that providers should only release health information to the relevant authorities on a need-to-know basis and not to the press or share via social media (Shekhawat, 2020, p. 1).
At first look, the article may not appear to be relevant because the event and laws exist in India. However, COVID-19 was and continues to be a global concern. The United States was also greatly affected by the virus, and local laws are similar to the laws in India mentioned in the article. HIPAA also protects PHI, and exceptions also exist for the public benefit in the U.S. (Hammaker, 2020, p. 186-87). Technology continues to advance exponentially. Such technology provides tools to track, disclose, or share relevant or needed information to the appropriate authorities or the public to prevent or contain an outbreak. Our current culture includes a population resistant to using vaccines, and diseases like Polio, once contained, are recently being seen again in the U.S. Risk exists for future outbreaks of other diseases. Patients in the U.S. may see privacy concerns increase regarding COVID-19 and other outbreaks now and in the future. Technology outpaces our laws, and many working in the health care field call for revising or rewriting our privacy and security laws. Actions that may be taken in the future that would affect this issue are revising or rewriting these outdated laws to keep pace with technology, culture, and events and setting national standards for security, which currently vary per provider (Hammaker, 2020, p. 390-94).
Hammaker, D. K. (2020). Health Records and the Law. (5th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Shekhawat, Raghvendra S., Meshram, Vikas P., Kanchan, Tanuj, and Misra, Sanjeev. (2020, Dec.). Letter: Privacy and patient confidentiality in times of Covid-19. Medico-Legal Journal. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0025817220935908.
Module 1 Current Event
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