Breach of Confidentiality and Duty to Warn
Patient confidentiality is important for many reasons. Confidentiality allows patients to tell medical professionals key facts that they would not otherwise disclose, encourages patients to seek help for serious and sometimes embarrassing problems, and shows a sign of respect for what the patient is going through. This is why acts such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) were put in place. HIPAA requires that health care providers keep patient information and records private and secure, where they cannot be seen or accessed by others. These rules apply to any information, including that related orally or in writing.
To bolster HIPAA, the state of Texas also passed the Texas Medical Records Privacy Act, which applies the same rules of privacy to entities beyond the medical profession. This act applies to any individual, business, or organization that obtains, stores, or possesses protected health information, as well as their agents, employees, and contractors. Additional Texas laws outline privacy procedures in certain and specific contexts, such as patient-physician communication, patient records, especially sensitive health information, and the use of health information as legal proceedings.
With all of that being said, sometimes it is imperative for medical professionals to breach their vow of patient confidentiality. Laws regarding a medical professional’s mandatory duty to warn or protect vary from state to state. In Texas, unlike most other states, health care providers have no duty to warn or protect third parties. As a healthcare provider in Texas, you should know the following:
- If a medical professional believes that their patient is an immediate danger to themselves or others, the physician may notify medical or law enforcement authorities
- If a patient acts on claims made to a medical professional, and harms or injures a third party, the medical professional is not accountable for the actions. Under Texas law, they had no duty to warn or protect the third party.
If you are a medical provider such as a physician, nurse, psychiatrist, therapist, counselor, or social worker and you are facing the threat of losing your job and license due to issues with confidentiality, know that you have options and defenses.
The attorneys of the Leichter Law Firm PC have dedicated their professional careers to protecting the rights and careers of individuals facing license suspension, including medical professionals. Our attorneys are well-versed in the rules and regulations of HIPAA and Texas laws regarding confidentiality. We are prepared to defend and represent you in front of Texas licensing boards and in court. To learn more about our legal team, contact our office at 512.495.9995 today.