Confidentiality and Physicians' Health. A Cross-sectional Study of University Hospital Physicians in Four European Cities (the HOUPE-study).

Løvseth LT, Aasland OG, Fridner A, Jónsdottir LS, Marini M, Linaker OM. J Occup Health 2010; 52(5): 263-71. Epub 2010 Jul 12.

Article in English.

Abstract in PubMed:

Objective: To investigate how the subjective burden of confidentiality can act as a stressor that affects physicians' psychological health and wellbeing. Method: Cross-sectional survey data from a sample of university hospital physicians (N=1956) in four European countries (Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Italy) who participated in the HOUPE (Health and Organization among University hospital Physicians in Europe) study was analysed. Results: About 25% of the participants reported that confidentiality impedes emotional support to a considerable degree. An index of confidentiality as a barrier to seeking support (ICBS) had a negative effect on physicians' health and wellbeing. The effect of ICBS was confirmed and slightly increased when controlled for variables known to buffer the adverse mental and physical effects of stress. Though the physicians in Iceland and in Norway found confidentiality the most challenging, it was the physicians in Italy and Sweden who showed a significant effect of ICBS on their health and wellbeing. Conclusions: Whether confidentiality is a stressor in its own right or an amplifier of stressful situations in medical practice should be further investigated to gain a better understanding of the effect of confidentiality on physicians' coping, stress and health. In addition, there is a need to investigate how physicians can balance coping with the inevitable emotional demands of medical practice and maintaining the ethics of confidentiality in a way that protects both patients' privacy rights and physicians' health and wellbeing.

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