A doctor's visit can be as simple as a child getting treated for an earache or as serious as a physician having to relay a cancer diagnosis to a patient. Health care settings consist of an array of professionals, from nurses who assess and treat patients to environmental technicians who keep the hospital environment clean. UK law ensures that all medical practitioners protect patient confidentiality.
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Health care providers carry out health care confidentiality in two ways. One way is by physically protecting patient privacy when the patient is in the health care setting. The act of keeping the door closed when a patient is being examined or assessed is an example of this. The other form of confidentiality involves protecting confidential health care information such as patient medical records and laboratory test results. This involves exposing only necessary information to relevant health care workers.
Health care workers are trained to respect patient privacy in health care settings. Health care confidentiality sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorisation.
Exceptions to the rules
Physicians can release personal health care information when a patient gives written consent for release of their information to a third party such as a health care research team. Physicians and other health care team members must not reveal confidential communications or information without the patient's express consent, unless required to disclose the information by law. Exceptions to that rule would be situations such as a patient threatening bodily harm to himself or to another person.
Violating or not paying attention to patient confidentiality in health care settings will cause patients to feel uncomfortable and lose trust in their health care provider. If patients withhold pertinent information, then health care providers may not get a clear picture of the patient's health, which could result in a misdiagnosis.
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