How Do You Balance Patient Confidentiality With Care Team Communication?

    Authored By

    Doctors Magazine

    How Do You Balance Patient Confidentiality With Care Team Communication?

    In the intersection of patient privacy and team collaboration, we've gathered insights from medical professionals on balancing confidentiality with communication in healthcare settings. From a Physician Assistant's advice on allowing patient-created communication guidelines to a CEO's emphasis on upholding privacy with data protection measures, explore the diverse perspectives of four experts on this crucial topic.

    • Allow Patient-Created Communication Guidelines
    • Adhere to HIPAA for Care Continuity
    • Establish Clear, Secure Communication Protocols
    • Uphold Privacy with Data Protection Measures

    Allow Patient-Created Communication Guidelines

    The key to balancing patient confidentiality with communication to carers is specificity. Most people in ill health are not suffering from a single ailment, and while treatment may be holistic, when it comes to communication, lines should be drawn around conditions. This is especially true for mental disorders, which tend to be additionally sensitive in nature. A patient may be fine with, for example, their diabetes management being placed in the care of a friend or family member, but balk at having their SSRI dosage administered.

    Let the patient create guidelines with variance and flexibility. Sharing one piece of information doesn't necessitate another, and as a physician assistant, it's crucial I make that clear. The patient controls how much information I provide to their carer, and while creating a yes/no protocol is more work than a blanket policy, it's worthwhile because it encourages a healthy relationship between the patient and carer long-term.

    Carlos da Silva
    Carlos da SilvaPhysician Assistant, PA Career Hub

    Adhere to HIPAA for Care Continuity

    Patient confidentiality is standard and mandated in all forms of healthcare. It is a concept that has accompanied healthcare personnel—at least in my lifetime. As a nurse case manager in a hospital setting, handoff and communication within the patient's network, both internally and externally, are necessary for care progression and to secure a safe transition of care. I always provide up-to-date documentation via encrypted email or secure fax to ensure effective continuity of care. What is provided for handoff is only what is appropriate and necessary.

    Additionally, living in a tourist destination, many patients from out of state are hospitalized. To ensure there is no break in care, I will always (with patient/parent permission) send appropriate, necessary records to the PCP to ensure continuity of care is maintained. The need for communication, handoff, and continuation of care can easily be implemented while adhering to HIPAA compliance and patient confidentiality. The key is providing only what is appropriate, necessary, and needed for continuity in care.

    Brooke Edell
    Brooke EdellPediatric Nurse Case Manager

    Establish Clear, Secure Communication Protocols

    My approach is to establish clear guidelines that prioritize the patient's privacy. This involves using secure communication channels, obtaining explicit patient consent, and sharing only the relevant details necessary for treatment. For example, when discussing a complex surgical case, I ensure all team members are briefed using secure, HIPAA-compliant methods, which maintain confidentiality and support coordinated, high-quality care.

    David Hill, MD
    David Hill, MDPlastic Surgeon & Medical Director, Fulcrum Aesthetics & Surgery

    Uphold Privacy with Data Protection Measures

    At BelleVie, we believe that every individual, regardless of racial or cultural origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability, has the right to be treated in such a way as to maintain their dignity, self-respect, and privacy at all times. This includes the right to view their personal file in accordance with current legislation such as the Data Protection Act of 1998, the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Individuals are also entitled to have all their personal information kept secure and safe.

    To ensure that every individual’s data rights are respected and that there are the highest levels of data security and protection in our organization, we have appointed a colleague to the role of Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO). We follow guidelines and requirements under the Data Protection Act of 2018. The GDPR, which forms the basis of the Act, sets out principles for which this organization is responsible and must meet.

    Prior to starting any new data processing, we assess whether we should complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) using the ICO’s screening checklist. All new systems used for data processing have data protection built in from the beginning of the system change. All existing data processing has been recorded on our Record of Processing Activities. Each process has been risk-assessed and is reviewed annually.

    We ensure that, by default, personal data is only processed when necessary for specific purposes, protecting individuals against privacy risks. In all processing of personal data, we use the least amount of identifiable data necessary to complete the required work and keep the information only for as long as required for the purposes of processing or any other legal requirement. Where possible, we use pseudonymized data to protect the privacy and confidentiality of our colleagues and those we support.

    By implementing these measures, we are able to maintain patient confidentiality while effectively communicating with their care team, ensuring that essential information is shared in a secure and controlled manner, upholding both privacy and quality of care.

    Trudie Fell
    Trudie FellFounder & CEO, BelleVie Care