Respecting the Privacy and Dignity of Clients
Published: 25 August 2019
Published: 25 August 2019
Healthcare workers are bound by law to keep the medical records and health information of patients, clients and residents safe and private.
A key part of treating a client with dignity and respect is making sure their privacy is respected. This is reflected in the Aged Care Quality Standards: Aged Care Quality Standard 1 - Consumer Dignity and Choice and Aged Care Quality Standard 2 - Ongoing Assessment and Planning with Consumers.
There is an inherent vulnerability in seeking healthcare and accessing aged care. A visit to a clinic can involve removing clothing, being prodded, scanned and possibly photographed. In aged care it might mean having another person undress, wash and shower them.
Through all of this, the client trusts that the care worker, nurse, doctor and other healthcare staff have their privacy and dignity in mind. Any breach of this privacy will justifiably upset the client and could result in them taking legal action against you and/or the facility (RCNI 2016).
Health information is any information regarding a person’s health or disability, and any information that relates to a health service they have received or will receive (Better Health Channel 2015).
When a patient goes into a healthcare facility, they can make the decision to give staff access to their health records, or to withhold them.
They do not have to, but giving healthcare staff their consent to access this information will help staff to provide the best care possible for them. Healthcare workers are required to protect patients’ privacy and confidentiality (Better Health Channel 2015).
Note: a person always maintains a right to access their own medical records.
There are two situations in which a health service may use or share health information without consent. These are:
(Better Health Channel 2015; Health.Vic 2018)
Laws may differ by State and there are certain exemptions that may apply in law enforcement situations and in a court of law. Keep in mind, health information privacy laws only apply rights to people who are living (Better Health Channel 2015).
Privacy and dignity are guiding principles of person centred care. The provision of effective, person centred care hinges upon the following:
(SA Health 2014)
In this time of vulnerability, even the smallest details in your interactions with clients will impact their perception of how you regard them.
Beyond communication, be mindful of the steps you take to ensure the person’s privacy and modesty are protected, e.g. closing screens, making sure the patient is covered, and keeping your voice level down when discussing private and personal issues (RCNI 2016). In aged care, this means carrying out self-care tasks with sensitivity, tasks such as bathing, dressing and feeding.
Ways to let the client know that their preferences matter could include:
(SA Health 2014)
An easy way to ensure a client that their privacy and dignity are primary concerns of yours is to involve them as much as possible in discussions regarding their treatment.
Clients will want to know who is looking after them, when, why and how. Maintain ongoing discussion with your clients during ward rounds and handover (SA Health 2014).
(SA Health 2014).
Clients and residents deserve to be treated with utmost dignity and respect during and following the treatment process. Keep in mind that breaching privacy laws could have devastating implications on the lives of you and your patient, and on your career.
Question 1 of 3
True or false? There are situations where a health service can use or share a patient’s health information without their consent.
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