IMA launches campaign to highlight patient privacy

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Though there are laws in place to ensure that patients have a legal right to data privacy and to guide healthcare professionals about how to store, collect and distribute information, most hospitals appear to be extra cautious only when it comes to celebrity and VIP patients.

To highlight its importance for all sections of people, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has launched a nationwide ‘koi sun to nahi raha’ (hope someone is not listening) campaign. This comes in the backdrop of the extreme confidentiality maintained by a private hospital where former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister the late Jayalalithaa was treated in Chennai.

IMA national president K.K. Aggarwal told The Hindu that the campaign was aimed at streamlining rules on medical privacy and confidentiality. “The patient is the supreme consent giver, without which no action can be taken on their health record. Through this campaign, we wish to draw the public’s attention to the rights they are entitled to,” he said.

To sensitise doctors and hospital staff, IMA is sending awareness messages on their mobile phones and email, he said, adding that small but important routine practices in healthcare settings often breach patient privacy unknowingly.

“For instance, IMA is against the operation theatre list being displayed in corridors. This discloses personal and sensitive information about patients. Instead, a coding-based system can be devised so that the full identity of the patient is not disclosed,” Dr. Aggarwal said.

Even calling out the name of the patient in the corridors outside the ICU falls under breach. “These are small, but often overlooked details in daily medical practice, which go against medical ethics of doctor-patient confidentiality,” he pointed out.

When The Hindu visited a few hospitals in the city, it found the practice of calling out the name of a patient outside ICU was common in government and private hospitals. However, some hospitals had a separate enclosure outside the ICU, where the family could be briefed about the patient’s progress.

Also, most hospitals put up names of patients along with the doctor’s on the door of private wards. Staff such as paramedics and housekeeping personnel were found discussing patient details freely. However, the practice was not so common in government hospitals. Although these hospitals have their own practical problems in maintaining privacy owing to overcrowded out patient departments and space constraint, it was found that patient details were accessible only by patients.

For instance, at NIMHANS, patient details are not shared even for legal purposes. “If inevitable, we present it before the court and not to the advocate. Patients often share private and intimate details with doctors. We are obliged to keep this information safe and private, and records are only available to the doctor,” said B.N. Gangadhar, NIMHANS director.

In Manipal Hospital, it was found that wards did not display the patient’s name on the door. “We only display the patient’s hospital number and the doctor’s name. Although we are extremely carefulabout patient confidentiality and do not divulge details with outsiders, sometimes things do slip and we are making constant efforts to educate our staff,” said Sudarshan Ballal, hospital chairman.

Difficult task at times

A few government doctors admitted that it was sometimes difficult to refrain from divulging patient details. “If a girl is suffering from epilepsy and her husband knows about it after their marriage and wants the doctor to explain her condition, failing which he would break the marriage, the doctor is in a fix. Although he does not want to, he is forced to explain. I have faced such situations several times,” said G.T. Subhas, professor of neurology at Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute.

However, he agreed that patient-doctor confidentiality helps build trust between the two entities. “This is crucial to encourage the patient to seek care and be as honest as possible during the course of treatment,” he added.

Title: IMA launches campaign to highlight patient privacy

Source: news from Healthcare Privacy


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Author: KI Design Editor