Confidentiality at PHS

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of Physician Health Services. PHS recognizes the importance of respecting the privacy of those who come forward to seek help, and PHS is committed to devoting its resources to protecting that privacy. It is critical to PHS that physicians feel comfortable that the information they share in the context of PHS will remain confidential and will be protected to the full extent of the law.

In addition, PHS has implemented numerous safeguards and procedures designed to create a culture where information is protected and where program participants can feel comfortable sharing their concerns openly so that they can obtain the support that they need.

What Governs Confidentiality?

1. Federal Law
In 1992, the federal government consolidated two separate laws intended to guarantee the strict confidentiality of information about persons receiving alcohol and drug prevention and treatment services. This consolidated law, 42 United States Code § 290dd-2, and its implementing regulations, 42 CFR Part 2, sets forth rules prohibiting the disclosure of private medical information pertaining to drug and alcohol patients and program participants except in narrowly defined circumstances and with properly obtained consent forms from the participant releasing such information. PHS is aware of the requirements of this provision, and has designed release of information forms that meet the mandate of 42 USC § 290dd-2. PHS understands the importance of getting the informed consent of the participant whenever any information is to be released to a third party regarding any PHS participant.

2. Peer Review
PHS is a medical peer review committee, as defined by Massachusetts General Laws (G.L.) Chapter 111, section 1. As a medical peer review committee, all proceedings, reports, and records of PHS are to be kept confidential (G.L. c. 111, § 204). In accordance with the law, such records are not be disclosed, are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and cannot be introduced into evidence in any judicial or administrative proceeding, except proceedings held by the board of registration. PHS adheres to the strict protection of peer review material in accordance with this provision.

Use of E-mail

While e-mail is a convenient means of communication, PHS discourages its use in many contexts. Most importantly, the use of e-mail raises confidentiality concerns. When e-mail is sent from an office or work site, it is difficult to know where or how the information is being reviewed or stored. Many work sites have a policy of reviewing all incoming or outgoing e-mail messages to be sure that no inappropriate content is being transmitted. Even if e-mail messages are not directly reviewed, they are often stored on servers and backed up regularly, so that a record of the transaction is maintained. Such records may be subject to subpoena at a later date, or otherwise used in a manner unforeseen by the sender. In addition, there is a risk of inadvertently sending an e-mail message to one party that is intended for another, or having an e-mail message forwarded to unintended parties.

Although not all individuals who contact PHS are concerned that the contact be kept confidential, by discouraging the use of e-mail communications, PHS seeks to provide protection to those individuals who do wish their contact with PHS to remain private.

PHS strongly encourages any interested individual to call us directly at the following telephone numbers:

Direct Dial: (781) 434-7404
Toll Free: (800) 322-2303, ext. 7404

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