Privacy: What is the Public’s Role?


Privacy Protection 101Operating in a public health care environment creates a unique dynamic between balancing our patient, client and resident’s privacy rights and creating an environment that allows for the appropriate care supports to be in place when they are needed.

Sarah Wickham, Regional Access and Privacy Manager at Eastern Health, is well aware of the challenges staff face to accommodate this balance.

Sarah Wickham, Regional Access and Privacy Manager

Sarah Wickham, Regional Access and Privacy Manager

“Keeping the healthcare services we deliver to you private and confidential is one of our main goals at Eastern Health, and we have numerous privacy and confidentiality policies in place to achieve this goal,” said Sarah.

“But we still have challenges when it comes to protecting the privacy of our patients and residents. One major challenge for us is that our patients, clients and residents are not always aware of the role they play in protecting privacy.”

There are many things clients, visitors and residents can do to help ensure their information is used appropriately, including…

Share the appropriate information

It is essential for residents and clients to be open and honest with their health providers to ensure they receive the care they need.

However, not everyone who works within a health care facility needs to know the same amount of information.

“It is important to be mindful of who you are sharing your health information with. For example, a patient will sometimes call a clinic or physician and leave a detailed message, stating their Medical Care Plan (MCP) number, specific health care problem, and other specific details about their health. That call may not go directly to a treating physician, but rather an administrative assistant who really only needs their name and number to ensure the proper follow-up is made,” explains Sarah.

Always bring your MCP and Hospital Card

Other times, our patients, residents and clients may not provide us with enough information we need to ensure they receive the appropriate care.  This is often the case when a patient registers for a health care service!  It is very important to present with both a hospital card and MCP number for registration, as these documents are used to correctly identify the patient and gain access to their personal health record.

“There are many family members in Newfoundland and Labrador who share the same name, are from the same community and may even share the same date of birth. Proper identification of these patients without health care cards is extremely challenging,” said Sarah.

“While a person’s name may be the same, their hospital card and MCP is unique to them.”

Both the MCP and hospital card are used to properly identify a patient during their visit. The hospital card is used to ensure that the visit is placed on the correct health record, and the MCP number is used for billing the services a patient receives.

Update your next-of-kin information

It is very important for our patients, clients and residents to keep up-to-date contact information, especially for the next-of-kin.

If a person’s next-of-kin changes, they should update this information, especially for emergency situations. Next-of-kin is verified at every visit to the hospital or can be changed by request.

“If a person shows up to our emergency department, we need to know who to call, not to mention family members can get upset if they are not contacted. But if someone is not listed as a next-of-kin on a patient’s record, we have no way of getting in touch with the appropriate family member(s).”

Think before you capture and post

Major life events happen at hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities, so it makes sense people may want to capture their experience with pictures and/or videos! Be mindful of the other residents, clients, visitors and staff who may not want to be captured on camera!

“Say for example someone just had a new baby and is staying on a four-bed ward. We understand that they may want to take pictures of their new bundle of joy and share them on Facebook or other social media sites. We just ask that they position photos so that other patients and/or staff are not in the photo, or ask them if they mind being in the photo,” Sarah said.

“In all the walks of life, we should be respectful of others, and the online world should be no different! Be careful about what you post to the internet and consider how it can affect other people.”

Contribute to a culture of privacy

Privacy and Confidentiality... Your Right. Our Responsibility.

There are supports in place within Eastern Health to help ensure resident, client and visitor privacy is respected.

Check out Eastern Health’s privacy policies, ask questions and become informed.

As a client, patient or resident at Eastern Health, you have the right to ask questions about your care and express concerns to your health care provider. If you have privacy related concerns, let your health provider or a privacy employee know.

“We cannot address questions or concerns if we are not aware of the problem. Please make your health care team or the privacy team aware of any concerns you may have,” said Sarah.

If you have a concern or question about your privacy at Eastern Health, please contact our office at (709) 777-8025 or by email at: privacy@easternhealth.ca.

This story was written by Jackie O’Brien, media relations manager with Eastern Health.

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