Academics :: School of Health Professions

Privacy, Confidentiality and Patient Rights

Being a responsible professional includes respecting staff, patients, faculty, and fellow students' rights to confidential handling of information whether it is written, oral or electronic. The privacy of patients and the confidentiality of patient health information is mandatory and regulated by federal law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) went into effect April 15, 2003. HIPAA involves:

General respect for the privacy of others:

  • Handle the information you read on the patient's chart carefully
  • Do not discuss private information in a public place (such as cafeteria, elevator, lobby or other common areas)
  • Do not leave patient information in a public place (includes leaving charts laying open on a desk where general traffic/visitors may read it or leaving your clinical notes in the computer lab for others to read, leaving screens up on computers, or walking away from a computer while logged in, etc)
  • Do not use your computer access to review health information on patients who are not under your care (including patients other than yours, family members, friends, or from curiosity)
  • Do not take pictures or any images of patients, rooms, monitoring equipment or patient's family or friends (cell phones and other electronic devices are forbidden while you are in clinical—they should be turned off and in a backpack, purse, etc.)

Common courtesy:

  • Close doors and pull curtains to maintain patient personal privacy
  • Be aware of others around you before asking questions or performing procedures (Remember that patients sometimes do not want others to hear their answers, even family)
  • Be careful where you place charts, computers, notes,  or clipboards that contain patient information
  • Dispose of patient information according to agency policy (when in doubt ask your instructor or charge nurse, but generally it is to be shredded and NEVER placed in a regular trash can)

Talking about patient information:

  • Before you ask a patient any personal and/or health questions (or perform a procedure) verify that they are comfortable with everyone present in the room hearing the discussion or seeing the activity
  • Ask visitors to leave the room before you discuss the patient's health if the patient is uncomfortable with others around
  • Students are prohibited from discussing patient information outside of pre-clinical/clinical/or post-clinical conference and only then within the context of caring for their assigned patient 

Failure to abide by HIPAA regulations will result in disciplinary action and may constitute grounds for program dismissal. Clinical facilities will require you to sign a "Confidentiality Statement" and will expect you to abide by it carefully.

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