Legal Provision Governing Data Privacy When Doctors Use Applications Like Whatsapp, Viber to Share Patients’ Information
The Privacy Act, 2075(2018) of Nepal provides specific provisions for securing privacy rights of an individual. The sub-section 4 of the Section 12 of the Act explicitly prohibits to provide details relating to the health examination of a particular person to anyone else or publish such information without their consent, except in the condition when court or authorized officials demand so. Any act contrary to this Section is considered as an offense by this Act and are liable for imprisonment not exceeding the term of three years or fine not exceeding thirty thousand rupees or both, pursuant to Section 29 of the Act.
The confidential data of the patient stored in electronic means should also be secured and should not be obtained in an unauthorized manner, according to Section 19 of the Privacy Act. The Act of obtaining information of any person remaining in electronic means in an unauthorized manner, violating or providing its privacy for anybody in unauthorized manner is also recognized as an offense by Section 29 of this Act. It attracts the same punishment as the violation of Section 12(4) of the Act.
The concerned person can make a complaint to the concerned district court within three months from the date of commission of such act, pursuant to Section 30. According to Section 31, the Victim can also make a complaint to the concerned district court to get compensation in case of any damage, loss or pain due to commission of any considered to be an offense under this Privacy Act.
In this regard, Public Health Service Act, 2075(2018) also provides in its Section 14 that while providing health service, information including health condition of the service recipient, diagnosis or treatment obtained by him or her shall be kept confidential. It should not be published until and unless the service recipient gives written consent to publish such information or if any information is to be published in accordance with the order of the court or prevailing law or if it appears to have serious impact in public health if information is not published, which shall be accordance with the decision made by the prescribed official regarding whether serious impact is going to occur in the public health. The person not maintaining confidentiality required by Section 14 of this Act is liable for fine from twenty-five thousand rupees up to fifty thousand rupees, pursuant to Section 53(b) of the Act.
Besides, not maintaining confidentiality of patients is also against the Nepal Medical Council, Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct-2017. The confidentiality of patients should be maintained unless required by law or required for the purpose of research and study.
The National Criminal Code, 2074 (2017) also prohibits encroachment of privacy through electronic media through its Section 298, according to which no one shall obtain the notice, information, correspondence remained in or flowing through electronic media in an unauthorized manner or transfer it to another person in an unauthorized manner. Persons committing such offense are liable for imprisonment up to two years or fine up to twenty thousand rupees or both.
It should be duly noted that a patient may provide his/her either expressed or implied consent to share their confidential information among the medical practitioners for the purpose of treatment.