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Confidentiality is the ethical principle or legal right that a physician or other health professional will hold secret all information relating to a patient, unless the patient gives consent permitting disclosure." (AHMD)

Confidentiality is the principle in medical ethics that the information a patient reveals to a health care provider is private and has limits on how and when it can be disclosed to a third party. (3) The nondisclosure of certain information except to another authorized person.

Doctor-patient confidentiality is a concept that is as old as the Hippocratic Oath that states, "Whatever, in connection with my professional service, or not in connection with it, I see or hear, in the life of men, which ought not to be spoken of abroad, I will not divulge, as reckoning that all such should be kept secret." Confidentialy is supported by the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics which states that information that is disclosed to a physician during the course of the patient-physician relationship is confidential to the utmost degree. The purpose of this confidentiality per the AMA is to reinforce full disclosure from patients for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

This ethical concept of confidentiality was made a legal responsibility in addition to an ethical responsibility by the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Act of 1996. Two rules were enforced applying to confidentiality beginning in 2003, these include the HIPAA Security Rule and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rules. The HIPAA Privacy Rule regulates the use and sharing of identifiable health information and gives individuals the right to determine and restrict access to their health information. The HIPAA Security Rule requires that reasonable and safeguards be used to particularly protect electronic identifiable health information.

Acceptance of the responsibility by the user of an individual's information trusted to that user that the user will guard all identifiable information about the individual, and not disclose any portion of the information without the explicit consent of the individual(which will constitute an invasion of privacy), except as allowed by law.

Confidential Information

Confidential Information: Any information pertaining to the patient that should not get public

A constraint on information to protect individual privacy related to health and medical information. Ensuring authorized access to information is based on a need for payment, protection, quality assurance and care.


  1. The American Heritage Medical Dictionary. 2009.
  3. Accessed November 24, 2009.
  4. Accessed November 24, 2009.

Second Review

Health Insurance Probability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule

According to National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication, [1] to comply with the Security Rule, covered entities must be aware of the definition provided for confidentiality:

Confidentiality is "the property that data or information is not made available or disclosed to unauthorized persons or processes."


  1. Scholl, M., et. al., (2008) An Introductory Resource Guide for Implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST Special Publication 800-66 Revision 1, October 2008, p.7. (Accessed 18 Nov 2015)

Third review

The information that is shared as a result of a clinical relationship is considered confidential and must be protected. The information can take various forms (including identification data, diagnoses, treatment and progress notes, and laboratory results) and can be stored in multiple media such as paper, electronic format or media files such as videos. Limiting accessibility of records to only authorized users can ensure confidentiality. Many institutions take a two-tier measure to ensure that only authorized individuals have access to patient records by employing biometrics identifier scan, such as palm, finger, retina, or face recognition. [1]


  1. Laurinda, 2012. AMA Journal of ethics. September 2012, Volume 14, Number 9: 712-719.