As practice owners are taking COVID-19 precautionary measures, such as checking temperatures at the practice entrance and letting employees know that a colleague is sick, practice owners are grappling with how to strike the right balance between personal privacy and public safety in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus is putting to the test the trend toward giving patients more privacy rights, as well as forcing practice owners to make quick decisions about what personal information they need to collect in order to protect their practice.
Familiar Challenges in Uncharted Waters
Calls from practice owners to our firm have started flowing in with such concerns as:
- Should employees and patients be stopped at the practice entrance for testing
- Should practice owners take an employee's temperature and other health information,
- Should practice owners turn away employees and patients, if they showed any signs of the virus, or related symptoms
As events continue to unfold, some practice owners have also started distributing health check surveys, which requests a wide range of information about not only their employees, but their patients. Unfortunately, when questions start moving beyond employees and patients, to privacy matters, the concerns become more complex.
In addition, practice owners also face a dilemma over how much to tell employees about a colleague who has tested positive for the virus, or has related symptoms.
Emerging [at the speed of light] privacy laws require practice owners to undertake impact assessments in order to identify what information to process, and the risks of maintaining or disclosing such private information.
Making a Plan
The best course of action for practice owners will be to develop a clear and concise plan, in conjunction with guidance that authorities and regulators are beginning to release for collecting and disseminating personal data.
As events and compliance concerns continue to change by the hour [and sometimes by the minute], Oberman Law Firm is working diligently to provide our clients with the most up to date compliance and privacy guidance.