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Is Everything I Tell My Health Care Provider Confidential?

young bipoc female sitting on table in an exam room, talking to a provider in a white coat

Your health information is private and protected, and you can set limits on who can have it.

If you’re seeing a medical provider for the first time, it can feel weird telling them private things about yourself — especially if it involves talking about your sex life. Not only that but getting sexual health care in the first place can feel especially nerve-wracking if you live in a small town where everyone seems to know everything about everybody.

That said, rest assured that the providers at your nearest The Right Time health center take patient privacy seriously. Not only is it the key to giving patients quality health care (which you and everyone else who walks into a The Right Time health center deserves), but it’s also the law in the United States. Simply put, your health information is private and protected, and you can set limits on who can have it. It also means providers can be held accountable and lose their medical license if they are found guilty of breaking the law.

So, let’s say you make an appointment at a The Right Time health center because you want to get an IUD or you think you might have a sexually transmitted infection. Everything you tell your provider is private. Robin Watkins, CNM, WHNP-BC, and former Director, Health Care at Power to Decide, says, “Conversations between you and your health care providers, including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants, and front desk staff are private and confidential. They can’t talk to their family and friends (or strangers!) or post on social media about what you discussed during your visit or your test results.” They also can’t tell your family members or friends, either.

There are times when a provider can reveal your health information to others, even if you have not said they could. Watkins says examples of this are “if you are under 18 years old and are being abused or threatened, or if you are at risk of hurting yourself or someone else, or if talking to another provider might help in getting you the care you need, like referring you to a specialist.” There are a few other reasons a provider would share your health information (like if a court order requires the release of your medical information to law enforcement). Still, a provider should let you know before they do so.

Respecting your privacy is key to providing quality sexual health care at The Right Time health centers. As a patient, it’s always okay to ask your provider how they’ll protect your privacy during your appointment, and they should always be able to give you answers that make you feel safe and comfortable.

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Our partner health centers are focused on you. They provide access to all methods of birth control and free or low-cost birth control to those who need it.