Is Alcohol Rehab Confidential?

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Yes attending a rehab clinic is confidential. Rehab clinics treat their client’s anonymity as a high priority, and doctor-patient confidentiality is taken very seriously.

To ensure that your family member’s treatment remains confidential, you could follow these steps:

  • When the addiction is detected, early treatment helps it from getting out of control and wreaking havoc for everyone around.
  • It would be best to suggest a rehab clinic located away from the usual locality of the addict's home or office but close enough for visits and family therapy. This ensures that people in the neighbourhood do not find out about the addiction.
  • Do not discuss the problem with everyone. Be careful who you confide in.
  • Explain to other family members such as relatives and children that your loved one is suffering from a complicated illness that requires time to recover.
  • If the patient wishes to keep their Rehab confidential, then keep their stay at the Rehab private from their employer and colleagues by using their holiday allocations for the treatment.
  • Before enrolling in any rehab clinic, ensure to first find out about their confidentiality rules to know what to expect.
  • If the family member wants to have private treatment, find a different doctor from your usual GP and find a private one to refer them.
  • Find a clinic with no cameras and where cameras are not allowed.

If you’re planning to attend a private alcohol rehabilitation centre, one of your concerns might be confidentiality. 

Confidentiality is a big concern. This is because it’s hard enough for them to admit the illness to themselves, let alone allow the outside world to know what they are dealing with.

This is also one of the barriers to getting help for alcohol addiction.

The stigma associated with the disease is the most discouraging part of seeking treatment.

They will always ask themselves, “What are people going to say if they find out that I am addicted to alcohol?”

It is even worse when the patient is a high-profile individual such as a celebrity who needs treatment.

Why would I want my rehab treatment to remain confidential?

There are plenty of reasons why one would wish to have their rehab information stay confidential. Here are a few of these reasons:

One would wish to protect themselves medically

There is some debate on the ethics and legality of this. However, there is no doubt that some medical professionals treat recovering addicts differently from other people who don’t have a history of substance abuse.

This can affect anyone adversely and their ability to receive specific prescription medications.

For the sake of their jobs

Most people would wish to protect their jobs by ensuring that their employers do not know that they struggle with addiction. Keeping this private helps them keep their jobs.

One of the biggest problems that cause people not to seek treatment is the fear that they will find out they have a problem.

For this reason, keeping your treatment confidential will probably make it easy for you to keep with the program and ensure that you also maintain a somewhat normal life.

Is the information provided before signing up for rehab confidential as well?

Yes. This information should remain confidential. However, before you join a rehab clinic, some info is exchanged in the initial phase, and there are also some phone calls.

The privacy laws apply in this case, and although you are not technically a patient of the clinic yet, they must keep your information confidential.

Most rehab centres do not have a reason to share your personal information with anyone else, and they are supposed to keep this information up to the point where you enrol in the program.

If, however, they specify that the information is not 100% confidential and you still proceed to give them your details, then you may not be able to accuse them of breaking confidentiality since you were informed beforehand.

During this time, you will be exchanging your personal information with the clinic.

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What kind of information do you provide before rehab?

When you contact the rehab clinic initially, you will probably not need to tell them too much, other than the fact that you are addicted to alcohol.

Before your enrolment, you will probably provide some information about your substance abuse and history.

Here are some of the questions you may be asked:

  • How long you’ve been addicted to alcohol.
  • How severe the addiction is.
  • Whether you have ever attended Rehab before.
  • Whether you have some sort of social support available to you.
  • Whether you or anyone else in your family has had addiction-related problems or mental health problems in the past?

What is GDPR?

GDPR means – General Data Protection and Privacy Regulation.

It is a law that was passed by the European Union (EU) in 2016, and it took full effect in 2018. This law is just like the American HIPAA law that gives rules for patient privacy rights.

Addiction and rehab centres should seriously care about this law because, if they find themselves in violation or breach, they are subject to lawsuits.

From May 25th of 2018, this law was enforced, and the framework supersedes the UK Data Protection act.

It states that organizations would become accountable to data that they processed which gave them rules against personal processing data private by design.

Eye-watering fines are available to the Information Commissioners Office – ICO for anyone who breaches this new legislation.

They could be fined.

However, the processes, technology, and data involved in rehab centres can sometimes prove challenging to this law. For example:

  • With healthcare advances in the digital world, patient records are usually distributed across many different platforms and systems, and all of them require protection from unauthorized access and editing.
  • Successful rehab clinics involve the cooperation of many stakeholders for case management, and sometimes, there are almost 15 different organizations, which makes the whole process complex.

Here’s what you should look for when assessing whether the rehab clinic you wish to enrol in is GDPR compliant:

Legality

The rehab clinic understands the GDPR, such as consent, before processing the patient's data. Therefore, they should have already identified their lawful basis of processing data and the role that consent plays in this process.

Preparedness

They should have a clear team and project in place for ensuring compliance with this law. A data protection officer should already be on staff, and they must show you how they are addressing the expansion of individual rights under this law.

You could ask them how they handled the reduced Access Request timeframe and the requests for any new rights to data portability and erasure.

Accountability and transparency

They should demonstrate to you their data processing system and how they ensure this data is protected.

You should also see where they are exposed and the risks available. Most of these clinics should have information audits and data flows to help you understand their processes and review them.

Ask them to discuss any plans they have about Privacy Impact assessment and when the processes and technology change.

Engagement

Have the rehab clinic engage you about GDPR; if they have, they are taking it seriously, and they should also be able to discuss with you how they will ensure that your private data is not shared with anyone.

What about helplines? Are they confidential as well?

Any information you share about your addiction problems is supposed to remain confidential, but of course, we live in an imperfect world where mistakes happen.

The information you provide to a helpline operator should be confidential.

When you need to call the helpline, always write down a list of information you are willing to provide to the operator on the other end.

The kind of information they are likely to ask includes:

  • How long you have been addicted to alcohol.
  • Any other substances you are using.
  • Whether you have a co-occurring medical condition such as mental disorder, diabetes, etc.
  • Whether you are pregnant.
  • Whether you have any special population consideration, such as requiring a women-only rehab or men-only rehab.
  • Your insurance policy number and plan.

Which one is better for privacy? A local or away treatment?

Most individuals seeking privacy in their treatment will mostly opt for facilities far away from their homes.

This is always beneficial as it removes the fear of meeting someone you know.

With a physical distance, the potential of triggering the relapse from the stressful home environment is eliminated.

Also, you are more likely to focus entirely on your addiction issues and treatment from the distractions available at homes, such as family, work, and friends.

The in-patient treatment sought away from home is extremely necessary, but if you do not mind a closer treatment option, you may go ahead and do it, as it will also make it easy for you to go home often.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many reasons why one would wish to have their rehab treatment confidential.

The most common reason, however, is the stigma associated with alcohol addiction. When people learn that you are fighting an addiction, they may start treating you differently and even shun you in some instances.

Confidentiality ensures that you receive the treatment you need without being judged by people from work, family members, and even friends.

Fortunately for you, some laws strictly ensure that rehab clinics do not reveal your data to anyone without consent, and if they do, you can sue them for breach.

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: September 3, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.