We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Medical Privacy?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGEEK is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGEEK, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Medical privacy refers to a patient's right to have his or her medical information kept confidential. Medical privacy laws and regulations place limits on who exactly medical information can be shared with. Privacy within the medical field is also protected by doctor/patient confidentiality, which is a legally recognized privilege.

There are a number of reasons why medical privacy is important. Patients could fear discrimination on the part of family, friends or employers on the basis of having certain illnesses or diseases. People may also want to keep certain medical information secret for a variety of reasons, such as the need to avoid embarrassment or the desire not to have to speak about an illness to friends.

Medical privacy laws ensure that the patient is able to determine who to share his medical information with and when. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) sets forth laws designed to protect the privacy of patients. There are numerous regulations and safeguards in place, dealing in part with keeping electronic records and in part with other types of disclosure.

Under HIPAA, a physician cannot reveal information about a patient's condition to anyone except the patient without the patient's consent. This means that a doctor cannot even reveal information to a spouse or parent or to the police in the event of a crime. The patient will either need to consent that the doctor may share information or the court, in the case of police, will need to issue a subpoena if extenuating circumstances are present.

Certain limitations exist on medical privacy. For example, a physician can share information with an insurance company if he needs to do so to get treatment approved. Generally, this also requires patient consent, although the patient may simply consent to general sharing of information and may not have to consent on each specific instance. Certain limited information can also be shared with collection agencies if a patient has unpaid medical bills, but this information is usually limited to the cost of treatments performed and cannot provide specific details about the medical services provided.

HIPAA also mandates safeguards for the electronic storage of patient records to ensure privacy. For example, HIPAA sets rules that dictate limited access to electronic records. HIPAA also has policies in place for breach of the privacy rules and reporting requirements in case health records or data is accessed by an unauthorized party.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Oceana — On Oct 01, 2012

@Perdido – I've known some women who never told their husbands they were pregnant. They just terminated it without him ever knowing.

I don't know whether or not this was legal. I mean, the doctor could have assumed that she told her husband, but then again, if it were illegal, then wouldn't he have had to sign some sort of papers?

I believe that medical privacy law makes everything confidential, even from a person's spouse. However, morally, telling him would be the right thing to do. After all, it is partially his baby.

By Perdido — On Oct 01, 2012

What are the rules on medical information privacy when it involves an unborn child? Does the husband have the right to know that his wife is pregnant with his child, or is even that kept secret until she chooses to reveal it?

I just wonder if women can have abortions without telling their husbands that they are pregnant. It seems to me that the man would have a right to know that he has a baby in existence before she terminates the pregnancy. Shouldn't he have a say in this?

By Kristee — On Sep 30, 2012

I feel good about the legal privacy of my medical information. I have nosy people in my life who would just love to know what I've been going to the doctor for lately, but since I haven't signed any consent forms that would release this information to anyone but my husband, they have no way of knowing.

I think that medical privacy is important for people like me who have nosy friends and families. Some things are just better kept secret, and some things I just don't want to discuss. If it doesn't affect anyone else, then they don't need to know.

By shell4life — On Sep 29, 2012

Wow, it's hard to believe that medical privacy rights even extend to people who have committed crimes. It's amazing to me that police have to wait for a judge to act before they can get medical information.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGEEK, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.