Patient confidentiality

Author: Dr. Aisling Whitaker, CEO Dental Hive

As a healthcare provider, confidentiality is a key component of our day to day work practices. In a dental office, there are a number of areas where confidentiality comes into play. Here, we present a number of situations where confidentiality can be accidentally breached and practices we should follow. 


Computer screen

When using a digital practice management software, it is important to ensure that the names of other patients are not viewable to each other. In the operatory, this means being conscientious when leaving the scheduling view open, booking patients back, or using share screen to view radiographs. 

  • If your software has a privacy mode that removes names, use this whenever possible.
  • Angle your screen away from the patient’s view. 
  • Log out or lock your screen when walking away. 


Digital scanner screen

If you use a digital scanner that shows a list of patient names or past orders, ensure that you turn the scanner away from your patient while you are preparing your setup. If you are making comparisons, ensure that you have already selected your correct file prior to turning to demonstrate. 



Keep any claim forms, medical history updates, day sheets out of view. If you have a pile in progress or are stepping away from your desk, store in a binder or organiser so that they are kept private.



It is ideal to use a secure encrypted service, such as that hosted by the CDA to send emails to other dental clinics or specialists that include patient x-rays. In the event that you are corresponding with another clinic or lab about a patient, do not use a full patient name in the email subject. Rather use initials so that you can search more easily. 


Lab cases

When receiving and processing lab case boxes or Invisalign cases, you must be cognisant of other passersby being able to see the label. Bring these to an internal room to be processed and store in an area that the names can only be seen by staff. Likewise, on the day they are being delivered, store in an area that the names can only be seen by your team. 


Sterilization room

Just like with the operatories there is the chance of privacy breach with lab boxes and day sheets. Keep these things safely stored and out of view.


Verbal breaches

Any discussions related to treatment or health should not be done if another patient can overhear. For example, conduct these conversations in a consult room or operatory. It is not appropriate to discuss medical history or details about their next appointment at reception if other patients are in the waiting room.


Consent on file

For children, confirm with the guardian who has consent to attend appointments and make decisions about their dental treatment. For example, you may accidentally breach consent by talking about a spouse’s treatment. Know who has consent for discussing treatment and make a note of it in their file.

About the Author: Dr. Aisling Whitaker, BA (Hons) MSc PhD BDS (Hons)
Dr. Aisling Whitaker is a general dentist, owner of multiple dental clinics Bitehaus Dental in Toronto and CEO of Dental Hive. Dr. Whitaker is experienced in starting a dental clinic from scratch, developing marketing campaigns, office systems and building a strong team culture.

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