🗒 Privacy and Confidentiality

Key messages:

  • Remember the ethical principal and your Hippocratic Oath concerning confidentiality
  • AHPRAs code of conduct state patient information is confidential.  You should only release with patient consent or required by law or public interest
  • Commonwealth privacy legislation provides 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APPs)
  • You should maintain a compliant privacy policy and document your privacy practices/procedures.
  • There are penalties and investigative powers for serious breaches of privacy
  • Note also your State privacy legislation

Exceptions where patient confidentiality and privacy can be breached

Law enforcement requests

Do not provide medical information to Police or the like unless you have the patient’s consent or there is a warrant, subpoena or court order.

Public health laws

There are various State/Territory legislation around reporting infectious diseases, STDs, AIDS, BAC, fitness to drive, child abuse, drug dependent patients, requiring release of health information etc.  Always check with your local State/Territory Health Department for specific details.

Where there is a threat to health or life, health information can be released to reduce/avoid a serious and imminent threat.eg HIV infected person is irresponsibly placing others at risk or seriously ill patient is a risk to his/herself.

Request for health information from all other authorities

You may receive request for health information from solicitors, insurers, Government Departments and the like.

Ensure you have the patient consent before releasing the information. The patient authority should be signed and contemporaneous. Release only what information is requested.

Family disputes

These can be awkward and involve various requests for information and treatment.

As a general rule either parent is entitled to direct treatment or to a child’s health information unless this poses a threat to a child or is precluded by a court order.


Medical Board code of conduct and other policies and guides  (similar to Dental Board) 


Australian Privacy Principles


State/Territory Privacy legislation


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