Doctor-patient confidentiality is very important. All patients should feel confident that their doctors will not share their private information with others. The right to confidentiality allows patients to be candid with doctors, and in exchange, the doctor can more accurately diagnose and treat the patients. When a doctor or health care provider breaches that confidentiality, a patient may have a medical malpractice claim.
Under the concept of doctor-patient confidentiality, a health care provider must use a patient’s personal information only for the patient’s benefit. The provider cannot divulge information about the patient to a third person unless the patient consents, though there are exceptions. A doctor can reveal the patient’s information for health insurance purposes, if there is a pending lawsuit, or if the patient threatened immediate harm to others.
The doctor-patient confidentiality covers a lot of information. Most obviously, the duty of confidentiality extends to a patient’s medical records, which includes the patient’s medical history and pre-existing conditions. Many people do not realize that a doctor’s opinions and conclusions about the patient are also confidential. In addition, communications between the patient, the doctor, and other staff are also covered by the doctor-patient confidentiality.
Remember that the doctor-patient confidentiality stays in place regardless of whether the doctor is still treating the patient. In fact, the duty of confidentiality continues even if a patient has passed away.
South Carolina law provides that if a doctor or other health care provider breaches the duty of confidentiality, the patient can file a medical malpractice action. There are certain steps you must take after filing a lawsuit, such as participating in mediation. To find out whether you may have a medical malpractice claim and what steps you need to take, you may find it helpful to consult an attorney.