'Survey patients on attitudes to confidentiality'

A research team from Lincolnshire PCT has told practices to consider surveying their patients on confidentiality after pinpointing 22 staff-initiated breaches within 26 hours.

A researcher in the waiting room posing as a 'mystery patient' overheard medical and reception staff and patients at 13 practices disclosing sensitive information such as the patient's name and address and the reason for the appointment.

'Overheard disclosures adversely affect patients' trust and lead to a breakdown in the patient-doctor relationship,' the researchers said.

They recommend that practices consider patient surveys to find 'ways to improve management of patient identifiable information'.

The study, the most recent in general practice waiting rooms, found that simple adaptations such as playing background music and locating the waiting room away from the reception area were helpful.

Thirteen out of 40 Lincolnshire practices agreed to allow the researcher to pose as a mystery patient in the waiting room.

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