As health care has increasingly been delivered by networks of providers, the question
of disclosure to other providers, such as specialists and laboratory workers, has
become more important.
Generally, consent for disclosure to other providers should be implied in most
cases. Unless a patient specifically states a contrary wish, it can probably be
assumed that he or she recognizes and wants the benefits of bringing other
professionals into the treatment process.
It is important, though, to note that other providers take patients' information
with the same duty to maintain its privacy as the provider who collected the information.
A specialist who learns information from the patient's primary caregiver may not pass
it along except to another provider who is involved in the patient's care and who
has the same privacy obligation to the patient.
Patients who wish to refuse consent to information sharing within a network of
providers should be able to do so. They must also be willing to pay a higher price
for this less-efficient method of care, and they must accept the risk of receiving
potentially lower quality health care.