Dealing with a medical condition is a trying time for patients. As if that wasn’t enough, they need to be on the lookout for people who would potentially infringe on their rights. Whether we’re talking about negligence or premeditated actions, there are various situations where another person can get ahold of patients’ private documents or harm them in some other way.
Whether you’re a doctor or nurse advocate in charge, you need to be aware of various risks that would endanger your clients. Furthermore, you need to properly communicate these potential issues so that a person is aware of them before starting medical exams and treatments.
Practitioners must ensure their patients are properly taken care of, and they don’t have to worry about anything else besides getting healthy. By reading the following tips, you’ll have a better understanding of specific areas you need to focus on.
1. Understand laws and regulations
If you’re serious about protecting patients’ rights, the best way to start is to get acquainted with the legal regulation. Besides federal laws, you also have to be proficient in local and state policies so you can cover all the angles. As if that wasn’t enough, a responsible medical practitioner also has to understand ethical codes and standards within the industry.
Understanding the legal framework is much more demanding than you might think. It is a process of continuous education where you have to get on top of the latest policies and practices. Given that many processes are now digitalized, you also need to learn more about potential threats that come from storing data in large systems.
2. Educate patients
As a nurse advocate, you need to ensure your clients are well aware of their rights and responsibilities. All these laws and policies can be rather convoluted for laymen but also for the elderly, who might no longer have the necessary capacity to understand the potential ramifications. So, to be good at this job, you must have endless patience.
Among other things, your task is to teach users what to expect from different hospitals and doctors. That way, the patients and their families can decide which medical provider is best for treating their current ailment. You also need to answer any questions that people might have regarding insurance and how it covers the costs of treatments.
When educating patients, you need to pay close attention to a person’s ethnicity and cultural background. If necessary, use interpreters to convey the information so that it’s fully understood. Once you know more about a person’s preferences, you need to share them with all team members so everyone’s on the same page.
3. Safeguard patients’ records
Perhaps the biggest infraction of patients’ rights comes in the form of data breaches. As their medical representative, you need to ensure their private data is stored in a safe place, whether we’re talking about paper or digital documents. You also need to be smart enough not to share anyone’s medical history or current treatments they’re receiving.
Of course, not everything is in our hands. Sometimes, breaches occur due to malicious attacks performed by hackers. While we can’t do anything about these external threats, we should always advocate for better software protection and the introduction of proper data handling procedures.
Speaking of software, another thing you need to decide is whether to use an internal system or an online SaaS. While developing an internal system is much more expensive, it gives you much more control. Among other things, you can decide which antivirus protection to use and limit data access.
4. Resolve conflict
If you wish to do what’s best for your patients, you need to be great at conflict resolution. There are many situations where patients will, despite having all the information, choose an option that goes against their best interest. When that thing happens, you need to put your foot down and insist they change their decision.
There will also be many situations where you’ll have to face ethical dilemmas. If you’re not sure what to do in such cases, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your supervisors, ethical committees, and mentors.
Due to the sensitivity of the topic, it also isn’t a bad idea to record all the conversations and how you acted in this situation. That way, you can also protect your own rights if anything goes amiss. Most importantly, eliminate any bias you might have as you don’t want to impose your own beliefs onto other people.
5. Utilize feedback
Despite our best wishes, there will be a handful of situations where we won’t be right. In these cases, it’s vital that you use feedback provided by other people as well as your former patients. Besides allowing users to post online reviews, you should also have an email and a dedicated phone number that would tackle all these issues.
It’s crucial that you use this feedback in the context of your current standards and practices. If you did everything according to the book, you shouldn’t feel too bad in case of a negative outcome – sometimes, things are simply out of our hands. However, if the issue keeps repeating itself, it might force you to change policies for the benefit of future patients.
6. Be proactive
A good medical advocate is always proactive and has the patients’ best interests in mind. Whenever something bad happens, it’s necessary for the professional to speak out and take a probative stance. Besides complaining about the issue, you need to challenge the person who caused the problem in the first place.
If necessary, a medical practitioner should report any form of abuse or discrimination that might endanger their clients. As a result, there’s a good chance you’ll face criticism from your colleagues and even retaliation. However, as long as you’re certain that your actions were just, you can enjoy having the moral high ground.