Confidentiality in clinical environment
According to Swedish laws, you cannot pass on information concerning a patient's health or other personal conditions, unless revealing the information does not cause any harm or discomfort to the patient or his/her relatives. The confidentiality regulation applies to all medical activities. You will be asked to sign an agreement confirming that you have read and understood the confidentiality regulations. Note that you are bound to the confidentiality regulation also after termination of your study period.
Information protected by confidentiality
The following health and personal conditions are protected by the confidentiality regulation:
- personal information (name, date of birth, address, contact details etc),
- health condition,
- information on past, current or planned medical treatments,
- state of mind,
- work capacity,
- family relations.
This is information that might appear in medical journals, emails or fax messages, test results or communicated face-to-face with medical professionals.
Communicating patient information
Be careful when communicating patient information by fax, i.e. use a pre-programmed card number or call the addressed person in advance. When sending sensitive information by email, both sender and receiver must use an email account locked by an electronic id-card and the message must be encrypted.
There are some exceptions from the confidentiality regulation, for example if the patient has given his/her consent or there is no risk for harm or discomfort.
However, as a medical professional, you are obliged to report if:
- You suspect a child to be abused or neglected. Contact the police and Social Welfare Agency.
- The police may require information about a patient. If you suspect a patient to be involved in a criminal act, contact the police on your own initiative.
- The Social Security Office may require information about a patient.
The patient’s right to access his/her medical journal
In general, a patient has the right to read his/her own medical journal. There are some exceptions, e.g. if revealing information may harm current treatment or health condition.
Does the confidentiality regulation apply to a patient’s relatives?
A patient’s relatives cannot claim confidential information. You are allowed to give general information about the patient’s location and general well-being, unless the patient has said otherwise.
Confidentiality concerning children and adolescents
When it comes to children under 18, parents, as guardians, decide who should have access to the child’s medical record. The older and more mature the child is, the child’s own will must be considered. A general guideline is 12 years. This means that from that age a child can decide whether a parent/guardian has the right to receive information from the medical records.
What is ‘internal confidentiality’?
‘Internal confidentiality’ means that only a medical professional who is currently treating the patient and needs the information in order to care for the patient, has the right to read the patient’s medical journal. You are not allowed to read a patient’s medical journal for training purposes or out of curiosity.
Measures if the rules are not respected
If confidential information concerning a patient is revealed, knowingly or because of negligence, the medical professional may be guilty of crime against the confidentiality regulation. Randomly accessing medical journals may be considered as hacking.
Always consult your supervisor if you are asked to share information from a patient’s medical record!
Information based on "Tystnadsplikt och sekretess i vården" 2014-04-24