Confidentiality in healthcare
This information is written for young people aged 12-24 years. The information relates only about how things work in health services, not other organisations such as schools or social services. When we talk about parents, we also mean any other person responsible for your care.
Can I make decisions and choices about my health?
Young people are able to see a doctor or other healthcare worker confidentially (on their own without a parent present) and make decisions about their health if the doctor or other healthcare worker thinks that they are mature enough to fully understand their health condition and the treatment options. There is no fixed age for this but it is usually around the age of 14 years. Generally healthcare workers will encourage young people to involve their parent(s).
What if my parents want to look at my health records?
If you are under 16 years of age, a health services’ ability to restrict your parents’ access to your health records will depend on a number of factors including your maturity and the circumstances of the request. If there is something in your health records that you do not want your parents to see, tell a healthcare professional. Generally, if you are over 16 years or over, your parents cannot see your health records, unless you agree to this.
What is personal health information?
Personal health information is information that identifies you. It includes things like your name, address and date of birth which can then be linked to information such as care and treatment you have received or results of tests. This may also include information about, relationships, pregnancy, contraception, sex, drugs, alcohol or feeling anxious or depressed.
This information may be held in a variety of ways including paper or electronic medical records. There are strict rules and policies about storing personal information securely.
How does the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) keep my personal information confidential?
All ADHB health professionals (this includes Starship as it is part of the ADHB) have a legal duty to protect the confidentiality of information about you. Only relevant information about you is shared within ADHB or with other organisations involved in your care, safety, welfare or well-being. We explain why and how it’s shared below.
How is my personal health information used?
ADHB healthcare professionals use your personal health information to give you the care and treatment you need and to promote your safety, welfare or well-being. This could mean sharing information with other health professionals who work in the service such as the person who sends you a reminder to attend an appointment.
Your information may also be used for other administrative purposes like:
Payment of bills or managing complaints
To get feedback on the services you have received
To process tests, x-rays and other test results
To pastoral care workers, providing spiritual, cultural and pastoral care
For purposes related to the operation of ADHB health services and treatment of patients including funding, planning, safety and quality improvement activities.
It could also mean sharing information with health professionals from another service or with your GP, if you agree to this.
Are there confidentiality exceptions?
There are a few situations where we may need to talk to other people . For example:
If we are concerned that you might harm yourself or someone else
If we feel that you are being harmed or at risk of being harmed by somebody else, or if we have concerns about your safety, welfare or well-being.
If any of these situations arise we would have to make sure that you are safe.
In most instances, unless you give permission, health professionals cannot share your health information. This means that your health information will not be shared with a parent or other family members, your friends, or your partner, or an employer, or a staff member from a different service (such as your school) but there are specific situations where others will need to be informed and we explain these below.
What does the law say about other confidentiality exceptions?
Sometimes the law allows your personal health information to be shared, such as
When government agencies require information for reporting purposes, for example to report notifiable diseases such as cancer or infectious diseases, and to report births and deaths.
To help investigate a serious crime or provide evidence in court
To conduct approved research projects that will benefit the community
To help other health services to prevent a serious threat to someone’s life, health or welfare.
If you are concerned about your information being shared, please talk to your health professional. They will discuss with you any consequences this may have for your healthcare.
Can I see and correct my own health record?
Yes, you can apply to access your health record held by ADHB. More information about this can be found at https://www.starship.org.nz/access-to-clinical-records
Any codes or words used in your record that you do not understand can be explained to you. If you think that something in the record is wrong or incomplete, you can ask for it to be corrected.
Access to your personal information may be declined in special circumstances, such as when giving you access would put you or another person at risk of harm.
What can I do to help ADHB and other health organisations?
You can help us by being respectful to health professionals and everybody using the healthcare service. Please let a health professional know if:
You cannot get to an appointment or if you are running late
You stop or change your treatment plan you have agreed upon with your health professional team
You think of something that could be linked to your health such as the use of any medication or drugs
There is somebody you want the health professional to share (or not to share) your information with (for example you may want the healthcare professional to let someone know that you went to the hospital, or you may not want your partner to know about your health condition)
You change your name, address, phone or email details
You think information on your health record is incorrect
If you have any questions about information in these pages speak to your healthcare team.
Acknowledgements: original texts adapted from NSW health youth friendly confidentiality resources https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/kidsfamilies/youth/Pages/confidentiality-resources.aspx