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May 11, 1994

Faxing Medical Records: Another Threat to Confidentiality in Medicine

Author Affiliations

Loma Linda University Medical Center Loma Linda, Calif
Loyola University Medical Center Maywood, Ill

JAMA. 1994;271(18):1401-1402. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510420033022

To the Editor.  —Patient confidentiality is uniformly recognized as critical to the caregiver-patient relationship. Confidentiality is emphasized in oaths and health care training and is required by employers. However, multidisciplinary medical care, third-party reimbursement, and utilization and quality review have undermined the traditional meaning of confidentiality. These changes in health care delivery led one physician-ethicist to declare that the concept of confidentiality had become "decrepit."1 While we are not ready to label confidentiality a "myth," the advent of information technology has further subjected confidentiality to the problems Siegler first addressed in 1982.1Facsimile transmission (fax) allows rapid communication between professionals, is convenient and efficient, and has become a common means of transferring patient information. However, the health care professions have not uniformly developed appropriate safeguards to protect patient confidentiality. A review of two cases will illustrate the ethical concerns and potential ramifications of faxing medical records.

Report of 

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