Confidentiality is the act of keeping patients’ health or personal information private. The Malaysia Medical Council (MMC) has created a Confidentiality Guideline for medical practitioners to secrete any shared particulars.
Take a look at why confidentiality is a sine qua non in your medical practice.
Why Does Confidentiality Matter?
Practising confidentiality is the key to tighten the trust between patients and their doctors. Any clinic and hospital staff should be responsible for preventing patients’ information leakage.
Some patients are not comfortable with sharing their medical records with a third party. For instance, sexual assault victims are less likely to disclose their medical reports due to social stigma around survivors.
The MMC will take legal actions against those who fail to commit this act according to Section 30 of the 1971 Medical Act. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to conduct good medical ethics.
How to Know a Confidentiality Breach?
It is vital to recognise various types of confidentiality breaches. Here are the most common types of privacy violations:
- Unauthorised access to clinical records and histories, regardless of paper or computer documentation.
- Providing clinical information to medical personnel who is not in charge of patients’ medical care.
- Improper disclosure due to insufficient clinical facilities and management.
- Sharing patients’ medical conditions or personal information with family and friends.
- Discussing confidential information in a public area.
How to Protect Patients’ Confidentiality?
You can consider these strategies to ensure protection upon your patients’ information:
- Patient Confidential Agreement Form
The purpose of this agreement form is to ensure clinic staff do not divulge any patient-related information and record. This agreement also acts as proof in case there is a breach of confidentiality.
- Strengthen Password Security
Clinical staff must encrypt computer-saved medical data with passwords. Do note that it is safer to create different passcodes for each file to avoid third-party easy access.
- Soundproofing Healthcare Environment
Although soundproofing your examination office can cost much expenditure, investing in a proper room acoustics system can have a positive impact on healing and working attitude. It is also essential to prevent noise emissions from your office as others might overhear any private conversations taking place inside.
When to Disclose Patients’ Information?
It is wise only to reveal medical and personal details upon patients’ approval.
However, there are five exclusive circumstances when doctors have the right to disclose patients’ medical records.
- The patient is a suspected criminal
- The patient’s documentation is needed for court or statute purposes
- The health condition must be disclosed to a close relative for their best interest
- The patient’s consent cannot be obtained during an emergency
- The patient’s health condition bears a potential threat to the public (e.g. COVID-19 cases)
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