Health Information Portability and Accountability Act

In the health care field patient privacy and confidentiality are of the highest importance. Physicians need to maintain confidentiality and protect their patients’ privacy to keep the level of trust that is needed to provide efficient health care. Patients need to trust that their private health information will be kept confidential before they will disclose important health information to their physician. Because of this importance in 1996 Congress passed the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA has put laws and regulations in place to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. Despite HIPAA and its laws and regulations, maintaining patient confidentiality at all times in certain health care settings is not easy. One health care setting that is facing issues with patient confidentiality is psychosomatic medicine. In the article by Psychosomatics, Confidentiality in the Age of HIPAA: A Challenge for Psychosomatic Medicine it discusses the administrative issues relating to patient confidentiality.

I will be discussing the issue and the population affected any potential solutions and how the solution is supported, the ethical and legal issues related to this administrative issue, and any managerial responsibilities associated with the issue. In the article that I read, the administrative issue relates to patient confidentiality in psychosomatic medicine. Psychosomatic medicine is defined as “a system of medicine which aims at discovering the exact nature of the relationship between the emotions and bodily function, affirming the principle that the mind and body are one” (Reference.MD).

With psychosomatic medicine, psychiatric practitioners work as consultants in medical settings with other practitioners. Therefore, there is a collaborative relationship between the medical practitioners and psychiatric practitioners. Trust between patient and practitioner is important in any medical setting, but especially in psychiatry. In order to build and maintain trust it is important to keep patient confidentiality. This is a problem area for psychosomatic medicine because of the collaborative relationship with other practitioners.

In order for the collaborative relationship to work information needs to be shared between the practitioners. Also the practitioner caring for the patient hires the psychiatrist as a consultant, which creates the question of who the information belongs to. However, if the patient hires the psychiatrist then the patient needs to be informed the information will be shared with his or her practitioner. Another big area of concern relating to patient confidentiality is that many people have physical access to patient charts in psychosomatic medicine.

Also the number of people with administrative rights to the patient records is even larger. It can be difficult to maintain confidentiality when too many people have access to patient records. These are just a few of the administrative issues related to patient confidentiality in psychosomatic medicine. The population affected by these issues is anyone who is a patient of the practitioner and referred to the psychiatrist or has hired the psychiatrist. Therefore, there is no specific part of the population that will be affected. These issues can lead to even bigger issues (Mermelstein & Wallack, 2008).

When there are problems or mishandling with patient confidentiality it can cause more serious issues like ethical and legal issues. Many ethical issues can result from not maintaining patient confidentiality. Acting ethically involves honesty, integrity, values, and morals. Therefore, when patient confidentiality is broken it goes against all of these characteristics of ethics. When a patient is promised privacy and confidentiality and that promise is broken because confidentiality is not kept then the physician or organization is viewed as dishonest and lacking integrity.

This could cause a patient to not feel comfortable enough to disclose important information to his or her physician. Also because this area deals with mental health it could cause problems in the patient’s personal life such as a loss of job, preventing employment, and discrimination, to name a few. Several legal issues can result with this type of issue. For starter if it got out that patient confidentiality was not being kept it could cause a loss of business for the psychiatrist or the organization, which then could lead to financial issues.

If the psychiatrist is responsible then he or she could also be terminated from his or her job or face fines and lawsuits (Munson). These same legal issues could occur with the organization that hired the psychiatrist. When issues in patient confidentiality are noticed, it is important to address these issues with some kind of solution. Finding solutions to administrative issues that relate to patient confidentiality are the only way to ensure that these issues are corrected and that ethical and legal issues do not arise also. In this article it discussed two possible solutions for minimizing and patient confidentiality issues.

The first solution was when needed to request additional consent from the patients for any information that will be included. Therefore, when new information that comes up that will need to be disclosed then the patient needs to be asked for consent. The other solution is for the psychiatrist to only document the information that is needed. Therefore, the psychiatrist will use their discretion and narrowly limit document patient information to what is only necessary. These were the only two solutions offered in the article. The article also did not offer much support for these solutions.

Within this article there was no mention of managerial responsibilities relating to administrative ethical issues. The article states that in this area of medicine there are a large number of administrative personnel handling the patient records. Therefore, I believe that a managerial responsibility should be to limit the number of staff that can handle the records when psychosomatic medicine is used. By limiting the number of staff who may handle these patient records then it could minimize any issues regarding patient confidentiality.

Other than this suggestion I do not know how else this issue can be handled because it is a collaborative relationship, which means there is going to be shared information. The article that I chose, which discussed a current administrative issue that relates to patient confidentiality was Confidentiality in the Age of HIPAA: A Challenge for Psychosomatic Medicine. The authors of this article discussed the challenges of maintaining patient confidentiality in a collaborative relationship involving physicians and psychiatrists.

Some of the issues discussed were the number of people handling the patient records, the sharing of information, and releasing of information. Maintaining patient confidentiality is very important in the health care industry. When it is not maintained it can lead to other issues like ethical and legal issues. Measures need to be put in place to protect patient confidentiality as much as possible. Just because psychosomatic medicine is collaborative effort it does not mean that a patient confidentiality cannot be maintained.

References Mermelstein, H. T. , & Wallack, J. J. (2008). Confidentiality in the Age of HIPAA: A Challenge for Psychosomatic Medicine. Psychosomatic , 97-103. Munson, C. (n. d. ). Consequences for Breaking Confidentiality Agreements. Retrieved September 30, 2012, from eHow: http://www. ehow. com/list_6527377_consequences-breaking-confidentiality-agreements. html Reference. MD. (n. d. ). Psychosomatic Medicine. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from Reference. MD: http://www. reference. md/files/D011/mD011611. html.

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