Protecting Patient's Private and Confidential Information


Protecting Patient's Private and Confidential Information

As a healthcare worker, it is very important to remember to keep a patient’s information private and confidential. Talking with a co-worker at break time or in passing about a patient can be a potentially inappropriate time. We must always remember to be vigilant in protecting our patients rights.

Guidelines for protecting private and confidential information include the following:

  • Discuss resident and client information ONLY in a place that is away from other residents, families and visitors. Report should not be given at the nurses station, as this is not a private area, with much opportunity for information to be overheard. 
  • Never discuss patients in an elevator, in a hallway, cafeteria, or any other public place within or outside of the facility. Discuss resident information only with appropriate staff. 
  • Do not ever release information to media or newspapers. 
  • Don’t release information to the police without first alerting a supervisor. Instead refer them to an appropriate manager. 
  • Do not keep a copy or make copies of resident information. 
  • Destroy all end of shift report sheets after use. 
  • Any item with a residents name or identifying medical information should NEVER be placed in general trash receptacles. They should be shredded for appropriate disposal of confidential information. 

Responsibilities regarding private and confidential information include:

  • Know your expected limits: Check your job description. Ask your supervisor to clarify anything you do not understand. Never discuss information that you are unsure of, and be sure of who you are sharing this information with. Not all friends and family are authorized to know information regarding your resident or client’s condition. 
  • Be on the alert for breaks or leaks. Be particularly mindful of when private information becomes casual chatting. Practice care that is private and behavior that guards confidence. 
  • Report to your supervisor. The best working relationships are those in which you keep your supervisor well informed and on top of things that are going on. Keep open lines of communication between your superior and yourself. 

Patient privacy and confidentiality generally refers to a patient’s right to:

  • Decide what personal health information can be shared with others
  • Decide how that information can be shared, and with whom it may be shared 
  • Not have information about resident or client discussed in areas where others could overhear 
  • Privacy also refers to the right to have physical privacy (curtains pulled) 
  • Patient confidentiality generally refers to a patient’s trust that health information will only be shared with those who need to know, and in order to provide appropriate care. 

For care to be appropriate, authorized health care staff need full access to a patient’s medical record. But, patients may withhold important information if they fear it will not be kept private and confidential. By ensuring patient privacy and confidentiality, your facility will help patients feel a sense of trust and help assure them they will receive appropriate care.

Protecting patient privacy and confidentiality is vital to your organizations mission. It helps increase patient’s satisfaction and sense of dignity. It helps ensure that patients get the most effective care.

This excerpt is taken from our Social Service Designee course. To see which courses are available in your state click here.

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