For doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, confidentiality is taken very seriously. However, mistakes can happen that cause you to compromise information.

Maintaining confidential information can be difficult even when you fully intend to do so. Little mistakes can happen if you aren’t careful. Even when you are talking about a patient while conferring with a colleague, one eavesdropper can compromise your patient’s confidential information. To ensure that you are giving patient privacy the care and attention it deserves, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use common sense and follow regulated procedures when dealing with patient information.
  • Organise your office in a way that promotes privacy and keeps information out of view of nosey people.
  • Be extra careful when you are visiting patients outside the office. Protect files and documents while you travel.

General Tips to Ensure Privacy

When you are maintaining the privacy of a patient, make sure you are aware of your surroundings whenever information is being shared. Here are some general tips for safe information sharing and maintenance:

  • When you first meet a patient, make sure to confirm their identity. Make sure the file you are holding matches the person in front of you. You could be meeting with an imposter or someone who has wandered into the wrong room.
  • Don’t leave identifying forms or information out unattended where someone should potential read them. Make sure files are properly stored whenever they are not in use.
  • Send documents to new location only through official mailing routes.
  • When speaking to patients or to colleagues, make sure you are in a private room. Examinations should also be conducted in a private room with door closed.

There are many considerations you should make when transferring or discussing private information but make sure you follow the law and your own careful common sense to determine the proper conduct.

Office Layout and Set Up

The way you set up your medical office has a lot to do with your success in maintaining confidential information. You want it to be comfortable for patients while it also promotes privacy and confidentiality. First, you should make sure that all of the files and computer screens cannot be read by people passing by. Move computer screens, which may be displaying sensitive information, away from waiting rooms and areas where people normally congregate. You should also set your computers to default back to the main sign-in screen after brief periods of inactivity. That way if someone leaves a computer unattended without logging out, the computer will automatically go back to the login. Make sure paper files are also protected. Don’t leave any files out in open especially when they are unattended. Use a security cabinet to store files in a safe locations that is resistant to both theft and fire.

In the Field, Outside the Office

Being discreet when visiting a patient, or discussing patients, outside the office is even more critical than being cautious in your office. Outside the confines of typical controlled environment you are faced with the different challenges. When visiting patients make sure you are carrying confidential documents securely. You may even want to use a portable laptop and document safe to act as an extra secure carrying case for important digital and paper files.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Alyssa L. Miller