Keeping things private

consumers privacy pharmacy

Forward dispensing may increase the risk of pharmacy privacy breaches, authorities warn

Regulators have again warned pharmacies over the need to ensure patient privacy and confidentiality, in even the most routine transactions.

The latest warning has been issued by the Victorian Pharmacy Authority, which says that its inspectors “continue to see breaches of privacy in pharmacies”.

“Typically, this occurs when the client is handed a box or basket of dispensed medicine, the contents of which may be visible to other persons present in the pharmacy,” the VPA said in its latest communique.

“The client then walks to a cash and wrap counter when privacy may be further compromised if there are other customers waiting to pay for their goods”.

The VPA said such an occurrence is a breach of pharmacy regulations, as stated in the Pharmacy Regulation Act 2010.

This includes a requirement [Clause 9(h)] that: “Adequate arrangements are in place to ensure that the identity of a medicine being supplied or dispensed to a client of the pharmacy or pharmacy department cannot be known by another person present in the pharmacy or pharmacy department who is not a person carrying on the pharmacy business or pharmacy department or a member of the staff of the business or department”.

Modern trends in pharmacy practice and layout may exacerbate the issue, the VPA said, noting that “particular care must be exercised in the case of ‘forward dispensing’ where privacy can easily be compromised in terms of other people overhearing the conversation or inadvertently seeing patients’ documentation as well as the medicines”.

“Similarly, there is also a potential breach of privacy if staff members sort PBS prescriptions on the serving counter”.

The VPA says ensuring privacy is also a security issue.

“For example, a person present may see that a client has a Schedule 8 poison or other drug of dependence and waylay the client in the street and steal the medicine; this has happened”.

“The wording of the Act imposes an obligation on the pharmacy to preserve privacy within the premises; what the client does after leaving the premises is his or her responsibility”, the VPA said.

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