Slideshow 6 ways to safeguard health data during wellness screenings

Published
  • April 24 2017, 11:49am EDT
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6 ways to safeguard health data during wellness screenings

There are a variety of privacy breaches employers know to avoid – not sharing health data and providing secure areas for private conversations, for example. But what about the obscure privacy concerns you might not have thought about? Here are six to address to ensure each of your wellness events is as safe and secure as possible, from Alan Kohll, founder and president of TotalWellness.

Employee privacy

Employee privacy can be a very common barrier to corporate wellness participation. Many employees worry their health data won’t be safe when collected at the workplace. They also might worry that their health data could end up in their employers’ hands. And different employees might value their health information differently. So a high level of focus on privacy across the board is vital.

There are a variety of privacy breaches you know to avoid. You know not to share health data and to provide secure areas for private conversations, for example. But what about the obscure privacy concerns you might not have thought about?

Here are six to address to ensure each of your wellness events is as safe and secure as possible, according to Allan Kohll, founder and president of TotalWellness.

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Facial expressions

A health professional who acts shocked upon reading a health metric is violating the privacy of the participant by visually referring to abnormal numbers. Most health professionals are trained to avoid these types of reactions.

As the coordinator of the event, however, you can safeguard against someone who slips. Try placing counseling stations in a secure area. If the space doesn’t allow, ensure health professionals aren’t facing a waiting area or somewhere that will be highly populated during the event.

Exposed paperwork

At most wellness events, employees will leave with some type of handout explaining their health metrics. That paperwork is theirs to control. The paperwork left on-site, however, needs to be protected. This means not only storing it in a place where it won’t be lost, but storing it so results aren’t exposed to wandering eyes.

Many health professionals have been taught to store paperwork face down to address this type of exposure. You can further address the problem by providing a table or space that can only be accessed by event staff. If you have the means, you might consider providing a folder or box in which to store completed paperwork.

Potential to be overheard

Being overheard is a risk at any wellness event. Unfortunately, events done at work aren’t afforded the luxury of private exam rooms like many doctor’s offices. That doesn’t mean you can’t set up a room and maximize the space for privacy, though.

Health professionals are trained to speak at a reasonable volume. If you can provide a space large enough to spread counseling stations out, you’ll be taking a huge step towards ensuring private information isn’t overheard. Always remember to plan and reserve rooms with privacy in mind.

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Unattended equipment

At many wellness events, health measurements will be taken using some sort of equipment. The equipment tells the health professional the results. Unfortunately that means it has the potential to display the results to anyone who looks at it.

A simple way to address this is — again — to think about privacy when preparing the space you’ll use for your event. Be sure you have a room large enough that health equipment can be kept at a safe distance from waiting areas or places where participants might gather.

Identification confirmation

When dealing with health information it is absolutely vital to confirm the right information is given to the right individual. One way to do ensure this is to have a participant confirm their identity. There are a variety of ways to do this, and health professionals are trained with this in mind.

As the wellness coordinator, however, it’s important to educate your workforce on the importance of identification confirmation. Be sure they know to use and respond to their full name when waiting for results. If they know a co-worker has the same name, remind them to confirm date of birth, spelling or some other identifier. The more active your employees are in the process, the more the potential for mistakes is diminished.

Speaking out loud

We know what you’re thinking. How can health professionals chat with our employees without speaking out loud? Obviously speaking is an important part of the interaction. In an ideal wellness situation, though, a health professional would discuss an employee’s health metrics without ever saying his or her results out loud.

Employees are provided handouts that list their health metrics. Health professionals are instructed to point at numbers and results rather than speaking them out loud. This is one more safeguard against being overheard.

It’s important your employees follow suit in order to protect their own health information. If they have a question about a particular number, it’s best to point to it. For example, an employee might say, “Is this an acceptable LDL cholesterol number?” as they point to their LDL result, rather than saying, “Is 127 an acceptable LDL cholesterol number?”