Consent and confidentiality
Confidentiality should be a guarantee when we’re talking about doctor-patient relationships. It is absolutely essential to feel safe when you walk into your doctor’s clinic. Each patient has the right to feel that their confidentiality is protected when they seek treatment. Doctors take the oath to protect their patients and this is every person’s legal right.
It’s not just about objective observations, diagnoses, and test results. Doctors also gather subjective impressions about the patient, their lifestyle, habits, and recreational activities and for some people, that information is not something they would want just anyone to know! This brings us to the most important issue: consent and confidentiality.
Sensitive doctor-patient relationships
What with the cultural changes that society brings us, aesthetic surgery is an ever-increasing trend. Regarding the elective choice of aesthetic surgeries, there is a need for providing a standard informed consent form. There is a problem that arises from the advertisement of surgery by non-surgeons. In some cases, the advertisement could relay incorrect information which would threaten a patient’s autonomy in the long run.
Breaches of confidentiality in clinical practice can be a result of carelessness, indiscretion, or sometimes even maliciousness. Regardless, this breach would jeopardize a duty that is essential in the doctor-patient relationship. It could happen so carelessly and in situations such as speaking about patients in public spaces like elevators and cafeterias, during telephone conversations, or even when accessing electronic data.
So why is confidentiality so important?
Well, if doctors and staff were talking about their patients freely, it could affect the patient negatively. They will be less encouraged to share sensitive information that could impact their health and treatment. When it comes to aesthetic surgery, it’s not difficult to consider how sensitive the issue already is to the patient. Creating a trusting environment by respecting patient privacy encourages the patient to seek care and to be as honest as possible during the course of a health care visit.
How do clinics protect my information?
Most clinics usually follow general guidelines such as the ones taken from the American Society of Plastic Surgery (ASPS):
- Collect, use and store the minimum amount of personal data that is necessary or to comply with legal obligations.
- Limit who has access to the personal data in our possession to only those who need it for the purposes for which it was collected.
- Protect personal data through physical and technical security measures tailored to the sensitivity of the personal data we hold.
- Communicate with our employees, members and other customers, suppliers, business partners and others about how we intend to use personal data in our day-to-day operations.
- Take reasonable steps to ensure your personal data is accurate and up-to-date.
- Integrate privacy in the design of our activities and projects that involve the use of personal data.
Challenges Faced by Physicians
A patient’s confidentiality is regularly the top concern for most associations. However, the advancement of medical technological heavily relies on research and studies. When we’re talking about the field of plastic surgery this means research depends on photographs. Conducting research like this can present challenges in maintaining patient privacy and anonymity. Attaining photographs of patients present a unique challenge.
According to an article on JAMA Network, “Facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons should obtain written informed consent prior to obtaining any patient photographs even if the intent is not to publish the images. Failure to obtain patient permission to be photographed can be considered an invasion of privacy even if the photographs are kept only as a confidential part of the medical record. In addition to the informed consent obtained at the time the patient is photographed, informed consent is necessary for publication.”
How can you be sure your information is safe?
First, ensure that the medical professional you’re dealing with stores their patient documents in a secured location. Confirm with them that they may not disclose your information without consent, and they must produce a copy of their confidentiality agreement prior to conducting procedures. This could be done if you approach the situation as though you are interviewing prospective interview candidates for an employment situation. Most importantly, ask many questions about the procedure, including how confidentiality is protected.