A Slip of the Tongue – A Lesson On Patient Privacy

When it comes to patient privacy, I am a stickler. When my patients start talking about other patients of mine, I merely compliment them on their concern for others. It’s a polite way of reminding them of this sacred privacy. I’m often amused when my wife encounters a patient in a social situation, and the conversation begins with the assumption that she knows some of their medical history.

However, I am not perfect in this regard. One time a patient shared some great news with me. He was getting married soon and wanted us to arrange his medical treatment with that timing in mind. When his soon-to-be wife came into the room following a stop at the bathroom, I congratulated her. What I did not know is that he had not yet popped the question!

When the privacy laws first came on the scene, I remember a funny cartoon in the editorial section of the newspaper. All of the patients in a doctor’s waiting room had paper bags over their heads in order to “ensure” their privacy. But sometimes we need to bend these rules a little. For instance, if I call a patient’s home when they’re not available, sometimes I will share a small amount of information with their spouse in order to prevent any unnecessary worry. It’s all about judgement and common sense.

So, the next time you’re looking for a unique way to propose marriage, forget the Jumbotron. Just come to my office!