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Patient Confidentiality, An Issue for New Medical Businesses

– Contributed content –

Viewing X-rays

(LinkedIn, Pexels)

12 Dec. 2019. Keeping your patients safe, and anything they tell you a secret, is something a medical business needs to hold in high regard. When someone walks through your door, looking to book an appointment and be handled with care, they need to be able to rest assured that whatever they say in the office, and any results for diagnosis given to them, will be kept safe and confidential.

And if you’re looking to start a medical business of your own, it’s one of the most important things to keep in mind during your planning stages. How are you going to keep your patient files confidential, and still ensure you’re running with all the access and affordability you need to?

With the new improvements in technology, and the amount of security threat that could potentially have, is your medical business at risk? After all, hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated in their attempts, and it’s something that’s very much in patient mind these days.

Confidentiality: what defines it

Your patients need to be able to trust you. And if you want to do the best for your patients, you need to be able to prove this to them. Otherwise the people who come to your door, seeking aid, may not report all of the symptoms they’re experiencing, or not even seek the help they need in the first place. And that’s a very bad turn of events for the healthcare sector and anyone looking to move into it.

Of course, in the modern day and age, the doctor’s job is a lot different to what it used to be. Nowadays doctors can be mediators and advisors, alongside medical professionals, and their work is brought up in a wide circle of other sectors, such as social care. These elements need to be factored into your confidentiality policy, when putting one together, to ensure you’re upfront about the relationship you’ll be able to hold with any one of your patients.

At the same time, other professionals will sometimes need access to patient records. Nurses, and other auxiliary services, or even just home care services for older or disabled people, need to be able to read through patient records when taking on a new case. So, access needs to be allowed to the right people, with the right credentials, so the record keeping system needs to be heavily monitored, and properly administered. Keep this in mind when you’re looking to hire someone to manage both the digital and physical system.

Overall, as a doctor, nurse, consultant or other medical professional, you have ethical and legal responsibilities. This will vary from area to area, but finding a fine line between the two elements of providing for your patients and acting within the law takes some working. Make sure you have the time in your schedule to trial your way to the right system.

The issue of keeping family records

Pediatricians alone have a lot on their plate, being a family friendly doctor dealing with serious issues on a regular basis. If you’re running a pediatric enabled business, and you seek to serve families in your area, you might come across a few issues being able to keep records as confidential as you would like them to be. After all, depending on the age of the child whose record you’re keeping, they may not want their parents to be informed of potential issues they may be suffering with.

At the same time, if a parent is suffering with something that may be genetic, respecting patient confidentiality and their wishes may require you to keep the potential for inheritance from their children. This can become an issue as they age.

How do you improve upon a situation like this? They’re far more common than you may think; indeed, very recently, a report of a woman not being told about her father’s Huntington Disease has been in the media. It’s a rough situation for everyone involved, and can bring a harsh amount of criticism on the parties involved, including the doctors simply keeping to the rules of their jobs.

Are some breaches justified?

As we mentioned above, some patient confidentiality breaches dance the line between ethical and unethical, and it’s hard to find the right answer between the two. Every patient who comes to you has the automatic right to keep their records to themselves, but if the information within is sensitive for more than one person in question, it may be justified to allow access.

Some cases seem cut and dry, and little to no patient cooperation is required to hand over details. Some cases may require a doctor to allow the police access to a patient’s file, if they’re suspected of being an associate or taking part in a recent crime in the area. If it’s reported to the authorities that someone has been seen being treated for wounds concurrent with what they may have sustained at the scene, access is often applied for.

But in plenty of other cases, patient consent must be obtained first, before anyone else is allowed access to a certain medical record of theirs. Patients must be walked through the reasons why a third party is asking for access, and why this may be significant to anyone involved. In a case like this, the patient comes first, and their wishes are respected.

Starting a new medical business with patients in mind

If you have the plans for a medical business of your own, you’ll have to take your time with the ethics and responsibilities involved. It can seem like quite the grey area, but you’re not going to be the first to have to face it; there are always going to be guidelines in place for whether or not the patient confidentiality model is allowed to be broken.

Of course, you can rely on your own knowledge and experience here too, and as a doctor, you’ll be a valued part of the procedure. Keep this in mind.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this post are the contributor’s and not those of Science & Enterprise.

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