Respecting patient privacy is a fundamental expression of respect for patient autonomy and a prerequisite for trust. Patient privacy includes personal space (physical privacy), personal data (informational privacy), personal choices, including cultural and religious affiliations (decisional privacy), and personal relationships with family members and other intimates (associational privacy). Physicians must seek to protect patient privacy in all settings to the greatest extent possible.
When individuals who are not involved in providing care seek to observe patient-physician encounters, physicians should safeguard patient privacy by permitting such observers to be present only when the patient has explicitly agreed to the presence of the observer(s), the presence of the observer will not compromise care, and the observer has agreed to adhere to standards of medical privacy and confidentiality.
Audio or visual recording of patients can be a valuable tool for educating health care professionals, but physicians must balance educational goals with patient privacy and confidentiality. Physicians also have an obligation to ensure that content is accurate and complete and that the process and product of recording uphold standards of professional conduct.
Audio or visual recording of patient care for public broadcast is one way to help educate the public. However, physicians have an obligation to protect patient interests and ensure that professional standards are upheld. Physicians also have a responsibility to ensure that information conveyed to the public is complete and accurate.
Ensuring that the public is informed promptly and accurately about medical issues is a valuable objective. However, media requests for information about patients can pose concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality, among other issues.