Privacy Laws in Healthcare

Why do privacy laws differ with regard to the release and use of health information in public health practice as opposed to public health informatics in the clinical setting?

Privacy laws such as HIPAA Privacy Rule, The Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002, and The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that touch on the use of patient’s health information in clinical settings and in public practice are important laws. This is because they offer guidance on ethical practices in health research and patient privacy protection, and both present significant gains to society (Staggers & Nelson, 2014). However, they differ with regards to the sharing and use of health information in public health practice relative to in clinical settings for various reasons. First, applying blanket privacy laws in both public health practice and in clinical settings would have a negative impact and curtail effort of health research in clinical setting. This is because privacy laws applied in public health practice are stricter. Applying a blanket privacy law on the two health settings would deter advancements in health research as such laws are mainly meant to protect the personal information of patients which would prevent health researchers from coming up with any findings in research that can be generalizable to a particular population with specific characterizations.

Secondly, Privacy laws differ with their application in public health practice as opposed to public health practice informatics in the clinical setting for the reason that while the two settings are important in the development of the health sector, they serve very different purposes.  Thirdly, Privacy laws differ within the two health sector settings to allow for advancement in the field of health research. Privacy laws understand the important role that the release and use of public health informatics is in the clinical settings. Clinical settings main purpose is to promote health research by improving human health and health care. Privacy laws in clinical settings are meant to protect patients involved in health research from maltreatment and upholding their rights, while at the same time collect classifiable personal health information for health research to benefit the society (Magnuson & Fu, 2013). Applying identical privacy laws would frustrate these efforts.

Lastly, the privacy laws differ so as to allow for research in clinical setting to come up with new approaches to therapy, better-quality health diagnostics, and more effectual approaches to preventingdiseases and delivering care that is customized to the needs of patients sharing particular attributes. This would not be possible if privacy rules that applied in public health practice were also applied in clinical setting. For example, no identifying patient personal characteristics would be released and used, and this would frustrate any sound advancement in health research. It would also be challenging for health researchers to come up with newer therapies, improved diagnostics, or more effective ways of delivering care or preventing diseases that are specifically tailored to the needs of a particular population with shared characteristics (Balgrosky, 2014). This would result to blanket treatments that may not be wholesomely effective on all patients having different characterizations.



Balgrosky, J. A. (2014). Essentials of Health Information Systems and Technology. Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Magnuson, J. A., & Fu, P. C. (2013). Public Health Informatics and Information Systems. New Yor, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

Staggers, N., & Nelson, R. (2014). Health Informatics: An Interprofessional Approach. St Louis, Missouri: Elsevier Health Sciences.


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