Medical Interpretation Law, and the Ethics of PHRs

Medical Translations of Personal Health Records (PHRs)

We’ve blogged about multilingual on-site medical translators and medical interpreters for Denver hospitals, doctors and clinics and HIPAA requirements. Electronic health records for patients, known as personal health records (PHRs) are becoming more and more popular with policy makers and purchases – although less so with patients and physicians.

PHRs should not be confused with electronic health records, which are used to store and manage detailed medical information. Instead, the PHR is a tool for collecting, tracking and sharing information on an individual’s health or the health of someone in a provider’s care. The advantage is that PHRs are universally accessible and thus have the advantage of providing up-to-date, interactive information regardless of where an individual is.

Despite their many advantages, PHRs also have many questions, particularly as to privacy issues. The main issue regarding privacy is that, unlike electronic medical records, not all parties with access to the PHR have an ethical obligation to confidentiality. Further, there is question whether PHRs fall under the Privacy Rule of HIPAA. With the question of what information is private and what isn’t, doctors using PHRs may place themselves in an ethical bind. And with the universal nature of PHRs, what happens when the information is in a foreign language? Does the provider have an obligation to get a foreign language translation of the information? Does this act of getting a foreign language translation violate any ethical obligations for patient privacy?

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