One of the reasons that individuals hesitate to partake in treatment for substance use disorders stems from a fear of how others will respond to our experiences and our situation. Living with an addiction to drugs or alcohol is often accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame, and talking about one’s mistakes openly makes a person vulnerable.
In fact, vulnerability is necessary for recovery. Those who are able to address and process their past are able to find healing much more quickly. Staying guarded against one’s own emotions and thoughts can stall success in treatment.
One of the primary ways to ensure that clients feel empowered to share honestly in treatment is by emphasizing client privacy and confidentiality. Practitioners including doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, psychiatrists and counselors can all benefit from understanding the importance of privacy and confidentiality in healthcare.
Understanding the delicacy of the matter
Practitioners who aim to sympathize with their clients should understand the gravity of client privacy and confidentiality. The mere matter of attending treatment may feel embarrassing to some. Many individuals hope to keep their participation in rehab from employers, certain family members and friends.
In addition to attending treatment, many people in recovery will have specific areas that they expect will be kept confidential. For example, the type of substance used, the length of addiction, certain behaviors caused by addiction (such as legal issues) and so forth are often sensitive subjects.
As a clinician, it’s important to understand that many matters are personal and client privacy and confidentiality must be prioritized.
The importance of privacy and confidentiality in healthcare
In the field of healthcare, and especially in the treatment of substance use disorders, privacy is essential for numerous reasons. First, if a client feels that measures are taken to honor privacy, the client is more likely to feel respected and comfortable in treatment.
A client’s comfort level translates directly to treatment retention and treatment effectiveness. When a client is able to share openly, the necessary emotional processing of a past with substance abuse can flow smoothly. A client who doesn’t have to worry that information shared in one-on-one settings with a therapist will be shared is more able to talk freely and identify deeply rooted issues, and then search for healing.
In fact, the American Psychological Association states that the client-clinician relationship is a primary indicator of successful outcomes in treatment. Establishing trust through privacy and confidentiality is a core aspect of strengthening that relationship.
Moreover, when clients are respected and their privacy is honored, they are more likely to remain in treatment. A client who feels that personal information is thrown around carelessly may be tempted to leave a rehab program before completion, thus risking relapse.
HIPAA privacy rules
In addition to a client’s ease of treatment, client privacy and confidentiality is important because it promotes adherence to HIPAA privacy rules. HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) includes a Privacy Rule that dictates how and when personal health information can be utilized and disclosed. HIPAA grants patients a legal right to privacy and protection should that right be violated.
HIPAA privacy rules create boundaries regarding personal information and require patient consent before sensitive information can be shared. Patients are also granted the right to obtain and view their medical records and request changes should there be inaccurate information.
Understanding client privacy and confidentiality is thus also a legal concern for practitioners. Working in the field of addiction recovery, like other healthcare settings, necessitates a knowledge of the HIPAA privacy rules.
The ideal method for the training of clinicians and recovery staff is through privacy training as part of the onboarding process of a new employee and continued training during staff in-services. It’s essential for a rehab facility to promote privacy training and clarify expectations regarding HIPAA privacy rules and other relevant laws.
Additionally, practitioners should also stay up-to-date on legislative changes. There has recently been speculation that the federal government may relax some privacy laws associated with a measure known as the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act.Critics are concerned that weakening this act will compromise patients’ privacy and deter them from seeking addiction treatment. To put this into perspective, people have real fears that their addiction will not only cost them their job but could also cost them custody of their children or even lead to their arrest.
It’s essential for healthcare providers to monitor all legislation that could affect patient privacy. Patients need to understand that their confidentiality will continue to be protected by you and your staff or they might choose not to seek the treatment they so desperately need.
Practitioners concerned about patient confidentiality should seek out continuing education workshops or classes that will help them find new measures to protect patients’ medical records and addiction diagnoses and treatment. It can be helpful to talk to other practitioners at local and regional meetings to share best practices associated with protecting client privacy. Be sure to let patients know all you’re doing to keep their status and treatment a private matter so they can focus on the matter at hand—their recovery.
Feeling secure in your treatment
If you or someone you know is searching for confidential care in addiction recovery, check out Silvermist Recovery. Highly individualized treatment provides clients with the best chance of recovery. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and make recovery your own.