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Confidentiality

Confidentiality

Information about your health and mental well-being is a very private and sensitive issue. The Health Information Privacy Code 1994 provides a series of guidelines for how health service providers – such as doctors and surgeons – have to collect, use, hold, and disclose private medical information concerning you.

This section is about what confidentiality rights you have within the health system.

Can my doctor give my private information to someone else?

Doctors are under a legal duty to not talk with others about your private medical details unless they have your consent or in certain extreme circumstances. If they breach this duty of confidentiality, they could face disciplinary action and can even be taken to court.

When can my doctor give my private information to others?

There are times when a medical professional may be forced to disclose information about you, particularly in cases where there is a threat to your own safety or health, or someone else’s.
Also, where a doctor believes that a patient under the age of 17 is likely to suffer physical, emotional or sexual harm, he or she is protected under the law in referring the matter to the police or the Ministry for Children – Oranga Tamariki.

In some cases, they could also be forced to give your information to the police and the court, if you’re charged with a serious crime and your medical records might be relevant.

What can I do if I think my doctor has disclosed confidential information about me?

In situations like these, you should first try to raise your concerns with your doctor. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your doctor, or if you’re unhappy with the response, you can refer the matter onto the Privacy Commissioner and make an official complaint.

Can I ask to see my medical records?

Yes. You have the right to see your medical records at any time, along with any other personal information held by your health service provider. It’s recommended that you ask to see your records in writing so that a signed and dated copy of the request can be kept as proof if you need it later.

If you think that your records are wrong, under the Privacy Act, you are allowed to ask for them to correct it.

How much does it cost to request for my medical record?

Health professionals in the public sector can’t charge you for requesting for your own health information.

Health professionals in the private sector usually can’t charge, but they can charge a reasonable fee in the following two situations:

  • For copies of x-rays and other scans or video recordings, or
  • If you have already asked for the same, or substantially the same information in the last 12 months.

How long can my doctor keep my medical records on file?

A health agency must not keep information that is personal to you without your permission any longer than is needed for providing health services to you.  The Health Information Privacy Code says that all health practitioners must, however, keep your records for a minimum of ten years.

Can anyone else have access to my medical records?

Only relevant medical staff are allowed to have access to your records and they’re also required to treat this information as confidential.

Also parents and legal guardians have a right to access the medical records of their children under the age of 16,  however, the doctor is also allowed to refuse a request from a guardian to access your medical records if they reasonably believe that you don’t want your guardian to have access, or if it’s not in you interest for your guardian to access the records.

 

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