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HR Insights with Ali: Protecting Patient Information

Posted on 8/30/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
For healthcare providers, the privacy of patient information must be paramount. Not only are the legal requirements of protecting patient data quite strict, but the role of protecting a patient’s information is also an ethical one. In order to do your job most effectively, you want your patients to be honest with you - and confidentiality is a major component in that process. Keeping patient information protected is an ever-changing responsibility due to advancing technologies and changes to the ways that we communicate. Here are three circumstances where patient information can be put at risk, as well as some suggestions as to how to keep that information safe:

1. Electronic data. Hearing about computer hackers and the encryption of data is becoming a daily occurrence. But for most dental and medical providers, the ins and outs of keeping electronic data protected are beyond their expertise. Hiring a reliable IT provider who specializes in medical recordkeeping is the best way to protect yourself and your practice from the loss or theft of electronic patient data.

2. Employee chatter and/or carelessness. Even the best IT experts cannot be much help if an employee leaves, say, a file of patient information in the booth when she finishes her lunch. Having employees take patient information outside of the office is basically asking for trouble and should be avoided to the extent possible. At the same time, you should make it extremely clear to your employees that discussions of private patient information are absolutely prohibited except when relevant to and necessary for care. Remember that your employees follow your lead, and ensure that you are following this rule to the letter.

3. Social Media. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be useful marketing and communication tools. They should never, however, be used to transmit or discuss sensitive patient information. Encourage patients who have a medical issue to contact your office directly via phone or by a secured message in order to keep their data safe.

The above information is, of course, a simplified summary of the many issues surrounding the protection of patient information. But they should serve as a helpful reminder that we all tend to lessen our focus on these rules when we aren’t paying attention. Keep yourself, and your Practice, protected by always making patient privacy your primary concern.

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