How French hospitals flout medical confidentiality with private contractors

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French hospitals increasingly allow private healthcare administration companies access to patients’ confidential medical records in violation of the ethics and regulations governing the medical profession. The widespread practice, which has come to light after a hospital doctor in western France turned whistleblower, is a side-effect of an increasingly complex system cash-strapped healthcare establishments must use to obtain state refunding of the medical acts they perform. Caroline Coq-Chodorge reports.

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The principle of guaranteeing the confidentiality of a patient’s medical condition is common to physicians the world over. In France, and closely inspired by the original Hippocratic Oath, the historical guiding text for the honest practice of medicine, the medical profession is bound by a modern oath of professional conduct set out by its regulating body, the Ordre des médecins, which includes the stipulation that “Admitted into the intimacy of people, I will keep silent those secrets that are confided to me.”