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How to Explain Confidentiality Acts

Updated March 27, 2017

Confidentiality is an important ethical and legal standard in many professions. In the medical field, patient privacy is protected under the 1996 act passed by the federal government, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The act was designed to specify confidentiality and privacy rules in the health care field. Under HIPAA, health care facilities also must take certain safeguards to protect patients' confidential records. It is important that patients understand the confidentiality acts and the limits to these regulations.

Provide your clients with a written guide that explains the confidentiality acts and laws that pertain to your field. For instance, if you work in a health care setting, your patient must be provided with or have a copy of the HIPAA law.

Review the ethical guidelines in your field. Although you legally may be permitted to release some information, many ethical guidelines are stricter. Explain the confidentiality acts in a way that your patients understand.

Describe why confidentiality is important in your field. If you are a mental health therapist, you could tell your patients that knowing what they say is confidential helps them to feel more comfortable and honest.

Explain the limits of confidentiality. There are times for ethical, financial or legal reasons when it is permissible to break confidentiality. Make sure your clients understand these exceptions.

Act out or read vignettes that display different ethical confidentiality dilemmas. Discuss the different options presented in the scenarios with your patients.

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About the Author

Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.