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How a Medical Assistant Can Protect a Patient's Privacy

Confidentiality is an important issue in the health care industry. A person's medical history can be a powerful weapon in the wrong hands, not to mention a possible source of personal embarrassment. Patients may be reluctant to share personal information with their doctors if they believe that information will become public knowledge. Any breach in trust can seriously hamper a doctor's ability to deliver proper health care services.

To protect doctor-patient confidentiality, the federal government, as well as the states, have enacted a number of comprehensive patient privacy laws. The American Medical Association has its own code of ethics it expects doctors and other health care providers to follow regarding patient confidentiality. Although they're not licensed like doctors, medical assistants are required to follow these same patient privacy guidelines. Failing to do so can not only damage the fragile doctor-patient relationship, but it can endanger the medical assistant’s career as well.

Here are some ways medical assistants can protect their patients' privacy both inside and outside the office:

  • While in the office, only refer to a patient by his/her first name.
  • Only discuss medical issues behind closed doors.
  • Always carry patient charts and other medical documents in ways that doesn't display the patient's name.
  • Don't "shoulder surf" -- look over a coworker's shoulder to peek at patient information.
  • Never leave patient charts in places other than the proper receptacles. If you make a note that isn't part of the official patient record, such as jotting down a phone number, destroy it as soon as possible.
  • Always follow the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) guidelines for shredding and disposing of Protected Health Information (PHI).
  • Never carry patient information out of the office unless it's part of your job.
  • Above all, never discuss patient cases or reveal names when talking with friends and family. What happens at the office stays in the office.

Always remember, as a medical assistant, you are the face of your practice. You're probably the first person a patient encounters during a visit, and the first person in whom the patient is expected to confide. Your primary job is to make each patient feel comfortable, safe and at ease. Making sure to protect individual privacy can go a long way toward achieving this goal.

Get Medical Assistant Training at Everest

Everest is at the forefront of training tomorrow's medical assistants. Everest has trained and placed more medical assistants than any other school in the United States. Medical assistant career training is currently available at many of the approximately 100 Everest College, University and Institute campuses across America. Everest's Medical Assistant program is available as a 10-month diploma program. Programs, schedules and availability vary by campus.

For more information on Everest's Medical Assistant career training programs, contact Everest today!

Financial aid is available for those who qualify

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