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What are my rights to privacy?

Every patient has the right to privacy, which is 1 of 12 patients' rights that the American Hospital Association adopted in 1973 and revised in 1992. A corollary of the patient's right to privacy is the professional's obligation to protect that right, which is confidentiality. Health care professionals have always honored the ethical principle of confidentiality; therefore, the patient may disclose personal information to his or her health care professional without fear of it being revealed to others, including to family members and other professionals. Traditionally, mental health care providers, as well as those involved with the care of the alcoholic or drug addict, have been extremely protective of their patients' rights to privacy. Maintaining an individual's privacy is both an ethical and legal obligation.

Long-standing laws in all states and at the federal level protect a patient's right to privacy and the health care provider's obligation to maintain confidentiality. Sharing information about a patient's health and health care without his or her permission involves legal sanctions against those who have breached confidentiality. During the 1980s, the President's Commission on Mental Health recommended to Congress that there should be a federal law that protects a patient's right to privacy, especially patients who are extremely vulnerable, such as the mentally ill, substance abusers, and the mentally retarded. Public Law 99-319 legally guarantees a patient's right to privacy. No information can be released without the written authorization of the patient. The patient must knowingly and specifically request psychiatric and/or drug and alcohol information to be released before it can be.

American Hospital Association founded in 1898 to represent and serve all types of hospitals, health care networks, and their patients and communities.

Health care professionals have always honored the ethical principle of confidentiality; therefore, the patient may disclose personal information to his or her health care professional without fear of it being revealed to others, including to family members and other professionals.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1996 and was put into effect on April 14,2003.

A recent law that governs the right to privacy is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In 1997, professionals from nine organizations who serve the mentally ill worked together to develop a Mental Health Bill of Rights, which further addressed a patient's right to privacy and patient confidentiality. A patient's right to privacy includes not only his or her personal information, but it also includes the relationship with his or her mental health and/or substance abuse provider, except as laws dictate. Exceptions where private information may be disclosed include (1) a threat to harm others; (2) issues involving mandatory reporting, such as communicable diseases, impaired driving, child abuse or neglect, or any other requirement that is mandated by a particular jurisdiction; (3) in some states, a court-ordered or court-subpoenaed record that may be released to the court without the patient's written permission; (4) hospitals and medical offices that may release minimally necessary health care information without the patient's written permission for the purposes of diagnosis, prognosis, type of treatment, time, length of treatment, and cost, particularly in emergency situations. An additional exception has been mandated under the recent Patriot Act, whereby health care providers may disclose information without the patient's permission to authorized officials conducting security investigations.

A recent law that governs the right to privacy is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This went into effect April 14, 2003, and provides stringent legal penalties for health care institutions or professionals breaching confidentiality. The initial intent of HIPAA was to allow people to maintain their healthcare insurance after termination of employment and to decrease the exclusions for preexisting conditions. HIPAA also mandated that patients have the right to make informed decisions about their health care, which is another ethical principle called informed consent. The law provided further controls over Medicare fraud and abuse and standardized the electronic claims system between providers and third-party payers. Patients also have the right to view and amend their healthcare information by submitting a written request. Patients not only have the right to access their medical records, but they also have the right to know who else has access to them. In addition, over time, HIPAA has become known for protecting patient's privacy. Before being seen each time by the health care provider, the patient is issued a notice of privacy that must be read and signed.

If your right to privacy may have been violated, you can contact the privacy officer of the institution where you believed the violation occurred. You can also contact the Center for Mental Health Services, who can provide information about the protection and advocacy agency in your state.

 
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