Patient Safety and Confidentiality
Discuss the importance of patient safety and confidentiality and the impact this has on the role of a Medical Secretary.
Your answer should include details about how a Medical Secretary can put this into practice and the allowed exceptions to confidentiality. i.e ethical side, how you handle healthcare records, standards etc.
Patient Safety and Confidentiality
Patient safety involves all activities made within the healthcare processes and environments targeted to provide safe and effective patient care. It is an uphill task to ensure total patient safety in all healthcare practices but guided by the nursing and healthcare standards. The healthcare providers can assure the patients of safer and optimal care. Patient safety includes measures that prevent avoidable errors or any physical harm to the patient. Patient safety is one of the critical measures of healthcare quality, and thus various quality improvement strategies are put in place to ensure higher safety of the patients.
Patient safety is very important in the healthcare system. Patient safety reduces the chances of hospitalisation or extension for hospitalisation for patients under inpatient care. Medication or treatment errors may lead to complications that may contribute to hospitalisation, readmissions, or extended hospitalisation period for the patients under inpatient care. Apart from medication problems, other treatment errors such as wrong patient surgery and misdiagnosis, which contribute to adverse health results in patients leading to readmissions, hospitalisation and extended hospitalisation, increase the cost of care for both the patient and the hospital. This shows that enhancing healthcare quality in increasing patient safety lowers the treatment and hospitalisation costs associated with the health adversities. Patient safety boosts the trust of the patients in the healthcare system. Patients trust healthcare systems that provide safe, quality and effective healthcare and thus by providing safe patient care improves the confidence and trust of the patients in the healthcare facility. Sometimes, patient safety issues lead to litigations that affect the healthcare organisation’s trust and financial loss through costly compensations and low turn-up of the patients due to trust issues (Amirthalingam, 2017).
Patient safety and patient confidentiality are intertwined ethical issues of practice inpatient care. Patient confidentiality involves maintaining the patient’s information and details undisclosed to other people or the general public with the patient’s consent. Protection of the patient’s information contributes to increased patients’ trust in the hospital and its staff and avoids litigation that leads to costly compensations. Patients suffer mental trauma, shame, and defamation when their details are exposed to the public without their consent. There are exceptions to the disclosure of the patient’s information. The exceptions involve reports on child or elderly abuse or any form of abuse and information about a patient who is dangerous to self or other people. Disclosure on consensual agreement from the patient is allowed by the law if the disclosure benefits the patient or people in general.
A medical secretary has numerous roles in ensuring the safety and confidentiality of patients. The medical secretary schedules and confirms the diagnostic appointments, medical consultations and surgeries and thus, the documentation of the schedules should match with the needs and details of the patient to avoid errors in medication or treatment processes. A medical secretary manages patients’ records and thus place them at a risk of sharing the information with other people either intentionally or unintentionally. For the physically available patient details, the medical secretary should not leave the documents open at the office but instead, keep them sealed and locked into the protective cabinets. The secretary should also ensure that the digitised patient’s details remain locked by ensuring that their computer access passwords remain secret and that the computers are kept logged off when not being used. There is an ethical issue of reporting staff members contributing to breaching patient safety and confidentiality. Should a medical secretary report the ethical misconducts of a fellow member of staff, a physician or another administrator? The medical secretary has equal responsibility for protecting the patient’s safety and confidentiality and thus should report any ethical malpractice by any staff member.
- Amirthalingam, K. (2017). Medical dispute resolution, patient safety and the doctor-patient relationship. Singapore medical journal, 58(12), 681. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5917052/