The importance of maintaining confidentiality


Confidentiality is a protection and assurance of the right to privacy to the fullest extent. This report discusses the findings of my research into the importance of maintaining confidentiality. I investigated the situations where disclosure of confidentiality is appropriate in today’s workplaces. The transmission of data and handling of patient’s medical records and personal information is still a big area of debate. When handled incorrectly the penalties that can be enforced are very stiff. Information handled in an inappropriate way can be damaging and costly. Costly to the company, in respect to cost of litigation, and costly to the customer due to private information being shared with the unscrupulous people! This report will set out to discover some cases of law related to the workplace, I will look at some of the examples of when confidentiality is not maintained, and investigate what big corporations are doing to train their employees on the importance of maintaining ethical standards which contain guidelines for confidentiality in the workplace.

Keywords: Confidentiality, workplace, Research, Importance, Medical, Privacy.

Maintaining confidentiality in the work place is a big deal for corporations, major amounts of time and expense is devoted to training and documentation. All major businesses implement “Codes of Ethical Conduct” into the employment agreement for everyone that works for the company. Failure to maintain the policy could result in termination for the employee, and legal repercussions for the company.

Confidentiality is based on four basic principles:

  • Respect for an individual’s right to privacy
  • Respect for human relationship in which personal information is shared
  • Appreciation of the importance of confidentiality to both individuals and society
  • Expectations that those who pledge to safeguard confidential information will do so

Confidential information may contain, but is not limited to, address, phone number, names of family members, medical information, etc. Confidentiality is very important in maintaining trust and building a strong employee relationship.

This type of ethical behavior spans the globe, and is not just an American ideology. Here is an example from an Institution of higher learning at the University of South Australia, these types of policies are being implemented around the world. Information is power, and if not protected, can be abused. (University of South Australia accessed 11.24.09)

Present situations where disclosure of information confidentiality is well stated is the medical field, the government has enacted The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA). Under these guidelines which they have named, final privacy rules, “covered entities must keep individually identifiable health information against deliberate or inadvertent misuse or disclosure. Consequently, health plans and providers must maintain administrative and physical safeguards to protect the confidentiality of health information as well as protect against unauthorized access. These entities must inform individuals about how their health information is used and disclosed and ensure them access to their information. Written authorization from patients for the use and disclosure of health information for most purposes is also required with the exception of health care treatment, payment and operations.”( accessed 11.24.09)

Those entities that misuse personal health information can be penalized. Under final HIPAA rules, the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which is responsible for implementing the Privacy rules can impose civil monetary penalties and criminal penalties for certain wrongful disclosures of protected information. Civil penalties can be imposed up to $25,000 per year and criminal penalties can range from $50,000 and one year in prison to $250,000 and ten years in prison.( accessed 11.24.09)

The Health Care Industry had been lobbying the former administration to change or dismantle HIPAA regulations, while consumer privacy advocates view the rules as a breakthrough that provides comprehensive federal standards, rather than conflicting state standards for patient medical privacy. At this time, it is unclear whether or not the current administration will fully implement HIPAA and how these final rules will affect everything over the long term.

Keeping customer and employee information confidential is an important duty of all professionals. Employee data such as the information obtained and store to hire, pay, and manage is by nature sensitive. Keeping information that is discovered in the workplace confidential is also very sensitive, whether it is company related or customer based.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Mercer Consulting LLC

University of South Australia

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