As a medical office administrator (MOA) you are the gatekeeper for all things private for patients who frequent the medical offices, hospitals or clinics in which you work. An integral part of the healthcare team, you will be responsible for organizing and maintaining patient documents and records, perhaps even assisting medical staff with reports or conferences, and in all situations patient privacy and the laws surrounding it must be at the forefront of all you do.
Having been a patient yourself at one time or another, you know firsthand the sense of security you want and fundamentally expect when visiting your healthcare professional. If you are considering medical office administration as a career, are currently in a medical assistant training program at a medical assistant college or have received your medical administrative assistant diploma, it is essential that you are keenly aware of how and why you will ensure confidentiality for the patients you serve.
A Quick Guide and Links to Help You Understand and Ensure Patient Confidentiality
What is patient confidentiality?
Any information that is shared between a patient and a healthcare provider and the staff within that clinic, hospital and/or office, is private. Trust between patients and their healthcare professionals is essential. It is a sign of respect and offers the patient peace of mind knowing that the personal details of health situations and concerns are kept confidential.
Why is patient confidentiality important and required?
Anyone passionately working in the medical field to help others can appreciate the importance of privacy. But there are a number of specific reasons why it is so important and required by law.
To ensure a patient gets the care they need, even proper diagnosis and treatment, they need to feel secure enough to share the intimate details of their situation, ask their questions, and to know that their results and plan for care will only be shared directly with them – no one else. This helps to ensure a more open, honest dialogue, assisting the medical team in better supporting the patient.
Confidentiality also wards off the discrimination that might occur if the general public, a school, a workplace, a community or even family members knew intimate details about a person’s medical situation. Fears can have a negative impact on a patient, and it is a medical professional’s job to ensure patients have a safe place to communicate. It also protects the reputation of the doctor. With online reviews, it is quite easy to discern which doctors and medical offices are committed to valuing patients and their confidentiality. As a MOA on the frontline, you want to uphold the reputation of the team you work for and with.
What is the law in Ontario regarding patient confidentiality?
The Guide to the Personal Health Information Protection Act is designed to assist professionals in navigating the Personal Healthcare Information Protection Act legislation. It is a helpful interpretation, but of course is not meant to substitute the legislation or legal advice.
A few points from the Guide to offer an overview:
- It covers the rules set out for the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information
- These rules apply to all health information custodians operating within Ontario, and to the individuals and organizations who receive health info from those custodians
- The legislation balances the individuals’ right to privacy with respect to their personal health info with the legitimate needs of healthcare providers
- With few exceptions, the legislation requires health info custodians to obtain consent before they collect, use or disclose personal health info. And individuals have the right to access and request the correction of their own personal health info.
I am sure that within your medical administration courses you are covering patient confidentiality in detail, but for further information please refer to the guide and legislation for all the details you’ll require as an MOA.
What should you know about medical records and your responsibility?
MOAs must ensure that patient records are retained, transferred and disposed of in a secure manner. “The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) recommends retaining patient records for at least 15 years.”
Patient health records aim to improve quality of patient care by increasing efficiency and coordinating care across medical facilities, and healthcare professionals. The healthcare industry wants to ensure a patient’s records are up to date to ensure more reliable prescribing and care, and a shift to electronic records allows for real-time updating and quick access. But in this too, you will need to know your specific responsibilities, and work closely with your team, to do your part as a MOA to ensure patient confidentiality and bolster trust in all areas of your work.
If you’re still determining how your passion for healthcare could become a career, you can take the “Anderson College Medical Professional Career Training Readiness Quiz”.
Quick Links to Fuel Your Success!
We want to make sure you have what you need to succeed! Check out these reference links:
- Medical Office Administrator Courses & Programs at Anderson College
- Your Guide to Becoming a Medical Office Administrator (andersoncollege.com)
- Medical Office Assistant Training + These 5 Soft Skills = Career Success! (andersoncollege.com)
- Medical Office Assistant in Canada | Job description – Job Bank
- Administrative Assistant, Medical in Ontario | Job prospects – Job Bank