Confidentiality in the workplace: What you need to know
When you give advice to clients or patients for a living, you'll know that protecting sensitive and personal information is crucial. But are you clear on what counts as a breach of confidence or what to do if one occurs?
From how to protect confidential information, to what breaches of confidence look like for different jobs, here's what you need to know about confidentiality in the workplace.
What is a breach of confidentiality?
In short, a confidentiality breach is the disclosure of information to someone without the consent of the person who owns it. In other words, failing to respect a person's privacy or the confidence in which they gave the information or data to you, by passing it onto someone else.
Why is confidentiality important?
Protecting confidential information is vital. If you're in a position where you have access to or are given this type of data at work, your career relies on your ability to keep patient or client confidentiality. If you don't, you could lose trust and integrity in the eyes of your existing (and potential future) clients, who could terminate your contract and take legal action against you.
Unsurprisingly, patient confidentiality is highly important for therapists and counsellors. It forms part of the therapeutic frame of appropriate boundaries, which creates a safe space for a good working relationship to form.
Here’re some examples of ways you could unintentionally break patient/therapist confidentiality:
Sharing confidential information about a client with a family member or friend
Talking about confidential information somewhere you can be overheard
Leaving your computer containing confidential information open to others
Continuing to work with a client when there's a conflict of interests (for example, they know one of your family members or friends)
When permission to share information is given but isn't specific, this can create confusion and result in a potential breach (for example, a patient may give permission for their information to be shared with a teacher but not their GP)