Patients ought to be secure at both the health care centers and their social setting in their respective homes. Indeed, it is the ethical responsibility of physicians to maintain the confidentiality means of the patients at all times within the duration in the hospital premises. This, therefore, means the doctor has discretion to disclose or maintain secret the affairs of the respective patients. Which the latter cease to be the case thus the patient’s sense of confidentiality is said to have been breached. Occurrence hence shows a contravention of the physician’s code of conduct and may be subjected to punishment. So confidentiality dictates that any information pertaining to the patient’s treatment either identified by the physicians or disclosed by the patient should remain predominantly private to the two parties involved.
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The American Medical Association (AMA) under its principle of medical ethics firmly articulates that the patient’s disclosure within the treatment time remains wholly confidential to the two parties involved. In fact, the AMA council on judicial matter and ethics states the main aim of the ethical duty of the physician is observe utmost patient’s privacy to allow the latter freedom, thus leading to one’s willingness to offer full disclosure with the confidence that the doctor will keep it confidential. Consequently, the full and sincere disclosure enables the physician to carry out viable diagnostic procedure. However, the patient’s privacy has at times been contravened to the tune of disowning the ethical responsibilities by the medic and other stakeholders charged with the responsibility of maintaining such privacy. In particular, FroedtertMedicalCenter has been a victim of such contravention. Really, this has been a subject of debate since it has led to the mitigation of trust and confidence in the health care’s mode of handling their clients. As a result, external forces have intervened to help the patients outfox the exploits and contravention of their rights (Annas, 2004).
Froedtert is a health organization located in Wisconsin, US. Indeed, the center has been on the forefront in the provision of health services not only in the region but also beyond. According to the recent report to WISN12 by the health representative of the center, nevertheless, there has been the disclosure of information of a minimum of 43, 000 patients in late 2012, due to infections of the computer storage of with virus. The information disclosed included names, addresses, diagnoses, medical record numbers and to some extent the social security details. Though not resulting from intentional engagement, the center suffered the breach repercussions through the loss of trust and the successive rebuke from all the stakeholders therein. However, there remained indistinct on absolute loss of the medical information of the patients following the introduction of harmful elements into the computers (Annas, 2004).
In this regard, the computer forensic band of experts investigating the events could not identify evidence of access to the data; while, at the same time, could not rule out the possibility of having been accessed by the unintended clients. The recently identified breach of the patients’ privacy by the Froedtert has disclosed the reluctance of the company to own the subsequent discrepancy, and the resultant breach accruing to failure of management to enhance security for its data base by virtue of seldom scanning of its computers. Additionally, the patients whose reports were under the risk of unauthorized disclosure were reported to have been served in various Froedtert branches such as the Community Memorial Hospital of Menomonee Falls and the West Bend Community Hospital of Froedtert (United States. Congress. House. Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, 2008).
Laws pertaining to the topic has been crippled in the application and, therefore, often referred to as “crazy quilt of federal laws.” As a consequence, the federal government remains singularly responsible for the enforcement of laws and regulations concerning to patients’ privacy protection and enshrined within the respective national constitutions. Such regulations govern both the medical accounts and the licensing. Howsoever, the disclosure may be warranted by the patient or the medical record holder. Indeed, the patient’s attorney or the insurance companies, employers can only get the information with the consent of the patients only (United States et al., 2008).
Further note on privacy, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) also has launched a privacy rule that appertains to the protection of the patients’ private information. Moreover, the rule provides for the state protection on individual health information contained in the covered entities. Furthermore, the act stipulates that though the patients have the dismal rights to their private information, disclosure can be done to bring about a balance especially when the information is needed for the patients’ health care among other basic necessities.
In addition to this, security rule further specifies a group of administrative and technical safeguards for the covered entities that can be used to assure confidentiality and integrity among other trust building pillars. Consequently, HIPAA has also put forward more measure that would build up patients’ confidentiality. In essence, HIPAA under the regulation on privacy, covered entities may nevertheless release patients’ protected health information without legal authorization with a view to facilitate treatment or health care operations (Sullivan & American Bar Association, 2004).
Besides, there are also Managed Care Organizations (MCO) within the jurisdiction of Froedtert and beyond that requires patients to sign general discharge forms for authorization of access. In other words, the release of medical information of the patients can only be consented by the federal laws. Such authority is given to adult patients, legal guardian or parent or the administrator of the victim’s estate if the patient has been deceased. The patients’ right to allow disclosure of information is often codified in the majority of state statutes despite the variance in the indicated rights from different country’s regions. The physicians’ ethical responsibility of maintaining confidentiality can at times be contravened to pave the way to other countervailing society interests. Such measures taken by the MCOs may also help arrest the overriding cases of patients’ information breach out (Halstead, 2009).
The organizational management of Froedtert is charged with the responsibility of ensuring high confidential standards are always put into considerations in particular during the use of Electronic Health Record (EHR) keeping. Collaborations with other organizations, for instance, Health Information Technologists, would be a viable move for Froedtert to contain the illicit disclosure owing to such attacks on their electronic storage. This would also enhance its ability to exercise full compliance with the federal laws. Anyway, the incorporation of data segmentation for privacy (DS4P) should be developed and integrated into the day-to-day practice within the health center, too. Indeed, the data segmentation offers the conviction of the patients, the main stakeholders, to share information at a personal discretion of otherwise deemed necessary but within the requirement of federal statute (Emanuel, Crouch, Arras, Moreno, & Grady, 2003).
John Mike Davis, the Head of VA project and an Architect to Veterans Health Administration, states that compliance with authority further enhances the patients’ confidence in the institutional framework. Still, the management of Froedtert Company claimed that the breaches accruing to the computer virus are less severe as would be for the intentional move contravenes the outright ethical responsibility. However, according to the report from research by Ponenmon Institute, only 40 per cent of health care centers scan computers for viruses with Froedtert not exempted. Therefore, for the company to avoid a recur of the same in the future, it should incorporate frequent scanning of its computer to contain the scourge of patients’ privacy breach (Emanuel et al., 2003).
In conclusion, patient’s privacy can be pivotal in the health centers operations. Generally, the breach leads to not only contravention of the social ethics by the practitioners but also in the federal laws and regulations within the field. The health institutional managements should, hence, lay down requisite measures that will help mitigate or fully eradicate instances breach of patients’ privacy, as well as boosting social ethics of its employees through on-job trainings. Furthermore, the management ought to ensure that the data storage devices from time to time are screened and scanned to avoid unnecessary loss of data or the access by unauthorized personnel.
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