Confidentiality at Mayo Clinic

Patient confidentiality is a part of the culture at Mayo Clinic. Patient confidentiality at Mayo Clinic dates back to 1907, when Dr. Henry S. Plummer instituted use of the modern patient record at the clinic. A unique paper file held each patient's information, and the files were stored in a secure central repository. Each time the patient returned to Mayo Clinic, doctors could access the patient's complete medical record at Mayo, which aided in the patient's ongoing health care.

With the patient's permission, Mayo Clinic researchers also could use the data for patient research. Use of patient data has helped save lives, advanced treatment and quality of care, provided insights to prevent illness, and helped to educate patients and future care providers.

Mayo Clinic researchers have conducted tens of thousands of studies using data from more than 6 million patients who have been treated at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, since 1907. Mayo Clinic staff conducts research as a means to evaluate quality and improve patient care. This effort is shaped by Mayo's guiding principle, originally stated by Dr. William J. Mayo, "The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered."

For Mayo Clinic, the foundation of patient confidentiality is trust. Mayo Clinic patients trust that Mayo Clinic will "do the right thing." When it comes to keeping patients' trust regarding patient data, Mayo spends millions of dollars each year to comply with and exceed government requirements.

Every Mayo Clinic patient is given a letter asking permission to use his or her medical records for research purposes. More than 95 percent of patients consent. This demonstrates an appreciation for the value of research and confidence in Mayo's medical record security and confidentiality practices.

At Mayo Clinic, confidentiality includes three areas:

  • Integrity, which focuses on the conduct and ethics of the institution and its staff
  • Privacy, which focuses on patient rights and the use and disclosure of confidential information
  • Security, which focuses on the protection of data and people

Mayo Clinic has more than 100 policies in place to guide Mayo staff members regarding confidentiality and privacy issues. For questions about confidentiality issues at Mayo Clinic, contact the Office of Patient Affairs at 507-284-4988.

Oct. 17, 2014