A complex issue facing aged care facilities and service providers is the privacy and confidentiality regarding their patients.
When working closely with (and often advocating for) the elderly, we’re seeing them at their most vulnerable, and are privy to information that they might not want others to know about. To offer the best care possible, and ensure that clients feel comfortable with your services, it’s important to ensure that their privacy and confidentiality is protected to the best of your ability, at all times.
The Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 covers the rights of clients regarding health information. It states that individuals have a right to be told how their information will be used, to make choices about it, control it, to know when and why it’s being shared, and to access and correct it when necessary.
Facilitating the above can be challenging when dealing with clients who are temporarily or permanently suffering from impaired capacity, in cases where mental health care is being provided, or when providing palliative or end stage care.
When this occurs, providers might need to interact with the client’s family or primary caregiver on how to proceed. In cases when end of life care is being provided, one might need to follow an enduring power of attorney, or legal directive.
Confidentiality can only be overridden when adhering to it could violate the law, or cause harm to the client or others. Details regarding relationships, finances, or sexual activity don’t fall into this category.
To ensure that service providers are doing all that they can to protect and preserve a patient’s privacy and confidentiality, be sure to seek out consent at all times, and when working with care givers only share information on a ‘need to know’ basis.
If faced with a situation where you’re considering breaching confidentiality, you should first ask yourself:
- Is the patient objectively at risk?
- Can the risk be verified?
- Could the risk impact negatively on others in your care?
- Is there any way to mitigate the risk by speaking to the patient and supporting them to make their own decision?
Knowing this will help you to navigate most situations on a day-to-day basis.