Close

by

Protecting Client Confidentiality in Public: Laptops and Phones

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

My recent blog Confidentiality in a Coffee Shop:  Conducting Business in Private Places” highlighted the things professionals need to keep in mind when having private conversations in public spaces.  But the issue of privacy does not just include conversations that can be overheard.  It also includes using our electronics to carry out business anywhere where our screen could be visible to others. 

I was at two conferences recently where I was able to clearly see the work of others who were multi-tasking.  At one, a psychologist was sitting beside me and was editing reports with his computer on his lap.  His screen was fully visible. I could see everything he was doing including client names, claim or personal identifiers, and the written account of each individuals’ psychological assessment.  Of course, I had no business reading the material so I glanced away, but had I been interested, I could have clearly obtained information that was not meant for me, and information that a client did not consent for me to have.  In another conference example, a professional was sitting in front of me at another table.  She too was working on her laptop and I was able to see, even one table over, what she was doing.  She was not writing reports, but I did see her managing some personal financial material which I am sure she didn’t realize was visible.  As a close colleague, I reminded her at the break to be careful with her computer and what she was working on.

I am also often on the GO train venturing in and out of Toronto.  That is a hotbed of people working while they commute – on both their phones and their computers.  In my interest about this topic of privacy, I have noticed that some people have found ways to protect the privacy of their devices.  With some help from a trusted techy-friend, I wanted to provide some of these strategies to you, in case you are using your computer or phone to manage confidential or private information in public places:

APPS

On Andriod devices (sorry iPhone users) there are applications (apps) you can download that will put a filter on your device that allows you to only see the screen head-on, leaving those at different angles unable to clearly see your information.  Some of these helpful apps are:

EXTERNAL PRODUCTS

Products exist to put over computer monitors, laptop screens and phones that will distort the view from different angles.  For example, take a look at the complete line of privacy screen protectors from 3M3M offers an entire line of screen protectors that work on multiple devices and offer varying levels of protection.

The big picture is that the protection of privacy is everyone’s business, but this is especially true in health care.  Taking steps to conceal devices and screens is just as important as storing other confidential information properly.  The more portable our work-life becomes the more we need to safeguard the information we possess.