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Reassure workers that health info is confidential
But be honest if you need to report
Fear that their health and medical information will be shared with others is usually the "biggest concern" that employees have," says Judy A. Garrett, health services manager at Syngenta Crop Protection in Greensboro, NC.
"The biggest comment that you hear back from people is that they fear that their personal health information will be given to their managers or to human resources," she says. "Employees may say, 'I'm not going to go to occupational health, because I don't want to the company to know about my health.'"
You need to correct this misconception. "One of the first things we do when anybody comes to us is hand them a piece of paper. It essentially tells them that their medical information is not going outside these doors," she says.
Word of mouth will get out that you can be trusted, says Garrett, after employees see that their health information is indeed confidential. "An employee will tell others, 'I went there for a personal problem and they never told anybody about it,'" she says. "Eventually, they learn that they can trust you. They see their confidentiality wasn't violated."
There are important exceptions to confidentiality, such as an employee's injury which is covered by worker's compensation. "If you have an on-the-job injury, that doesn't fall under [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] guidelines," she says.
To avoid misunderstandings, be clear on exactly what information you are going to communicate to management, says Garrett. For instance, she says, explain that while an incident report is shared with managers giving details on an employee's fall injury at work, this won't include the worker's previous medical history.
An employee may disclose to you that they have a medical problem that compromises their ability to perform a task, she says, or you may learn that a worker poses a serious threat to themselves or others.
"Be honest with them, if you come across something that you have to report," says Garrett.
For more information on confidentiality of employee information, contact:
Judy A. Garrett, Health Services Manager, Syngenta Crop Protection, Greensboro, NC. Phone: (336) 632-6499. Fax: (336) 632-7062. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.