Disclosing your Diagnosis to Allied Healthcare Professionals
If you have recently been diagnosed with hep C, you may be wondering whether you are required to inform other healthcare professionals of your diagnosis. Beyond your treating physician, are there any benefits or legal mandates requiring you to disclose your diagnosis to other members of your health team?
Allied health professionals
Allied health professionals include other members of your health team and compose a large proportion of the healthcare system. Examples of allied health professionals include:
- Dentists and dental hygienists
- Occupational therapists
While these people are not necessarily treating or managing your hep C directly, some may be involved in your treatment indirectly. For example, a dentist could be treating the oral effects of Hep C, including dry mouth, gum bleeding, and toothaches. A dietician may be involved in the recommendation of a liver-friendly diet. A pharmacist could be checking your current drug regimen against your newly prescribed hep C treatment to ensure that there are no drug interactions.
Legal disclosure requirements
Full disclaimer: I do not have a legal background, so I recommend checking legal disclosure requirements for your state as legal requirements vary. In Canada, for example, there is no legal obligation to disclose your Hep C diagnosis. The Canadian Gastrointestinal Society states the following:1
“While there is no legal obligation to disclose information regarding your HCV infection status, it’s very important that you, at the very least, share this detail with your physician and any of the professionals caring for you, whether dealing with disease symptoms or treatment side effects, as the infection could affect other areas of your health.”
Hep C as a notifiable disease
Depending on where you live, hep C may be considered a reportable disease, meaning that a physician or lab personnel is required to report a positive result. For example, in Canada, hep C has been notifiable since the year 1991.2 The purpose of this information is for surveillance purposes, including the tracking of new cases.
My personal experience as a pharmacist
I have had cases where patients have voluntarily chosen not to disclose their Hep C diagnosis-- which is fine! I believe people should have the option to decide whether to disclose. In some cases, disclosing treatment may be beneficial.
Pharmacists in my province have access to recently dispensed medications. For example, I had an experience where someone dropped off a prescription for an antacid. The patient was new to the pharmacy, so I asked them what other medications they are taking. The customer said none; However, when pharmacists fill medications, we receive a pop-up alerting us of drug interactions even if the interacting drug was dispensed at a different pharmacy. For this particular case, I received a notification as I was processing the prescription for the antacid that the patient is also on Epclusa. Instead of asking the patient if they are on a hep C treatment, I asked the patient if they are still taking an anti-viral drug. Knowing that the patient was on Epclusa allowed me to effectively recognize the drug interaction and counsel the customer appropriately.
There is no right answer
It is up to you to decide whether you want to inform allied healthcare professionals of your diagnosis. Sometimes it may be helpful to do so; other times, it may not be relevant for your care. Either way, rest assured that there are numerous privacy laws governing the use of health information. Any information you disclose to an allied health professional is confidential.
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