Confidentiality – the Scenario (1)


 As a Receptionist read the scenario below and see what the potential problems are – and how confidentiality was could be broken.  This is actually a true story.

Every 6 weeks the Practice holds a vasectomy clinic. Normal Saturday morning surgery continues as usual.

Patients for both clinics come along and book in at reception and take a seat in the waiting room all together. No one is aware that there are two clinics going on at the same time. Nothing is advertised to say that there is a vasectomy clinic taking place that morning.

The Practice does it utmost to ensure that patients have privacy and confidentiality.

The team running the vasectomy clinic work all day and mid morning order in sandwiches from the local sandwich bar. The sandwich bar delivers the order which saves someone having to go and collect the order. This has been the system for the past few years and has never presented itself with any problems until:

  1. The Receptionist places the usual order for sandwiches for the vasectomy clinic being held that day – she uses the back office telephone so no one can hear her in the waiting room.
  2. The person taking the order at the sandwich bar asks the receptionist “is that for the vasectomy clinic?” the receptionist confirms that it is.
  3. When the lady arrives with the sandwiches she goes up to the reception desk and says “ I have an order here for the vasectomy clinic”.
  4. The Receptionist thanks her and phones through from the front desk to the nurse in the clinic to come through and collect the sandwiches.

Highlight what was done correctly – but more importantly highlight what could be potential problems regarding confidentiality and why?

The Receptionist did the right thing in placing the order away from the front desk.

She should have corrected the sandwich bar when they asked if it was for the vasectomy clinic – she should have given them a name of a member of staff as a contact name. Therefore not confirming that it was for the vasectomy clinic – but for a member of staff.

Another problem it  could bring is that the person delivering the sandwiches not knowing that they surgery is holding another clinic that day  assuming that everyone in the waiting room was in fact there for the vasectomy clinic.

They have been told in the past when a delivery has been made that it is for a vasectomy clinic. This should not have happened. Having a vasectomy clinic should not have been “broadcast” outside the surgery.

The fact that there are two surgeries running side by side (normal Saturday morning surgery and a vasectomy clinic) could lead to misunderstanding! How?

  1.  When the person from the sandwich bar came in and said I have an order for the vasectomy clinic – everyone in the waiting room could have possibly  over heard  and someone could jump to the wrong conclusion and assume that someone waiting to see the Doctor in the normal Saturday morning clinic could  actually be there for the vasectomy clinic.

2.  This could bring along several more problems

  • People jump to the wrong conclusion
  • People assume
  • People talk
  • People love to gossip
  • people often put 2 and 2 together and get 6
  • People get it wrong
  • Patients are all local people

3.  The person delivering the sandwiches may not know there are two clinics going on at the same time and could well live locally. She is likely to know people who are sitting in the waiting room.

They might see a male patient in the waiting room and possibly jump to the wrong conclusion – and think that he is waiting on a vasectomy when in fact he is there to see the Doctor carrying out the normal Saturday morning clinic.

What if the delivery person knows the man’s wife? She knows the man’s wife would be against him having a vasectomy! And she thinks that he is there for a vasectomy – can you see what sort of problems it could bring?

Every single patient in your Practice deserves confidentiality – so give it a thought when next time you are giving information over the telephone.

So, remember  simply ordering a sandwich could break patient confidentiality.

Always be aware of information that you are giving to outside companies.

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