Privacy and the Medical Transcriber

Medical transcribers deal with sensitive health information and they have specific obligations that are often protected by the law. Like others who deal with medical information, medical transcribers are required to observe privacy and confidentiality laws, along with any other rules and procedures set out by their employer or contracting business.

Privacy and confidentiality

Both privacy and confidentiality are important concepts for medical transcribers, but they refer to different things.

Privacy

Privacy, in Australia, is regulated by the Privacy Act 1988, a national law that includes the 13 Australian Privacy Principles. Privacy is about how personal information is handled. For example, if a business or government entity has been provided with personal information, the privacy laws might prohibit that information being used in a way that the individual hasn’t consented to. Medical or health information is usually subject to stricter rules. States, including New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT, have their own privacy laws that apply in addition to the national legislation.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is usually framed as a duty that requires individuals, businesses, or other entities to protect another party’s information, which can include commercial secrets or medical and health information. In Australia, confidentiality is mostly based in the common law, so there’s no specific legislation that covers it, though some state laws cover ‘secrecy’.

Implications for transcribers

As a medical transcriber, you’ll be dealing with sensitive information that’s protected by privacy laws and duties of confidentiality, so it’s important that you fully understand what these are. Ask your employer or contracting business if you have any doubts, and check your employment contract.  At a general level, it means you shouldn’t talk to anyone about anything you transcribe, and you should take measures to protect the data that you deal with.