There are many Codes of Ethics and Legal Considerations that play an important role in the Human Services field These legal and ethical considerations often factor into how professionals approach handle and resolve complex issues Simple solutions are not always readily available especially when dealing with the release of confidential patient information Thus numerous legal and ethical concerns can arise thereof It is imperative that Human Service workers understand the laws surrounding such circumstances and can ethically apply them in real world situations While there are specific laws governing patient confidentiality and the release of health information The National Organization for Human Services NOHS has also established a set of ethical standards that Human Service Professionals should consider in their decision making NOHS 2015 The standards relating to the release of health information fall under the section regarding Responsibility to Clients and include Standards 3 4 8 and 9 Standards 3 and 4 protect the client's right to privacy and confidentiality inform the clients of the potential limitations of that confidentiality within the law and if necessary explains the professional's obligation to protect the safety of both the client and the public NOHS 2015
Standards 8 and 9 set forth ethical guidelines for the sharing of written or electronic information requiring a client's consent to do so with legal exceptions and complies with all relevant laws and policies when handling electronic data Clients should also be made aware of confidentiality related issues and the possible pros and cons of how technology can impact the provider client relationship NOHS 2015 The rationale for determining which codes applied included those standards that are specifically related to the release of health information the ethics involved and the laws that ultimately oversee them Any professionals that handle health information have a responsibility to uphold the confidentiality security and privacy of a client and should be aware of the legal concerns related to the release of health information HIPAA the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and more specifically the Privacy Rule that modified HIPAA in 2003 created laws to protect patient privacy security and confidentiality The law restricts who has access to health records and what can be released or shared by others In addition it also grants patients more control over their own records U S Dept of Health and Human Services 2015 Because of HIPAA laws and the Privacy Rule there are many ramifications that could be of consequence for inappropriately releasing information about a patient or client in a hospital setting Both an employer and employee can be subject to civil and criminal penalties for violations Disciplinary proceedings could occur and fines levied along with the possibility of time spent in prison NationalNursesUnited org 2011 The Office of Civil Rights which is a department within the Dept of Health and Human Services is responsible for administering civil penalties and the Department of Justice imposes potential criminal penalties If professionals fail to comply with the HIPAA laws they can be deemed negligent in their jobs and lose their licensure
NationalNursesUnited org 2011 Most concerning of all the consequences is the psychological hardship that a breach of confidentiality could potentially cause a patient There are challenges that healthcare entities can experience in relation to the codes of ethics and legal issues Human Service professionals constantly need to consider the standards of ethical decision making while at the same time adhering to the law Sometimes a conflict can occur between the two Healthcare providers may find themselves trying to resolve difficult problems when legal duties interface with their ethical responsibilities For example a healthcare provider may find that their legal obligations conflict with their beliefs about the ethics of a certain action Ethical and legal parameters which raise several difficult issues could include things such as informed consent patient autonomy surrogate decision making etc Oftentimes cases with health service aspects will go to court and subsequently there are legal aspects that need to be considered A healthcare provider that is covered by HIPAA is permitted to disclose PHI if it is court ordered and or subpoenaed U S Dept of Health Human Services 2017 The provider however should not disclose any additional information other than what is implicitly requested To further ensure compliance when releasing confidential and protected healthcare information providers should make a reasonable attempt to notify the person involved in the record s requested U S Dept of Health Human Services 2017 In addition a qualified protective order should be sought to prohibit the use or disclosure of PHI for any other reason than the court proceedings Even with a subpoena through The HIPAA Privacy rule still dictates certain conditions that must be met before PHI can be released Depending on various state laws the information may be privileged which would require a patient's consent or court order to disclose it U S Dept of Health Human Services 2017
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