If you've recently started a business in the medical, legal, or collections industry, you already know that confidentiality is the name of the game. With a myriad of federal and state regulations governing the privacy of certain health- and financial-related data, keeping this data free from public consumption -- including out of earshot of members of the public passing through your business -- will not only keep you on the right side of the law, but help you avoid hefty fines that could sink your burgeoning business before it gets off the ground. However, if you don't yet have the money to lease office space with multiple private rooms or locked storage areas, you may be wondering how you can keep this information (and patient interactions) private on a limited budget. Read on to learn more about some of the office layouts, furniture, and technology that can help you
How can you achieve privacy in an open office?
When you're leasing a commercial space, you may not have much ability to make major changes to the floor plan or fixtures of your business. However, having an open office environment when part of your business involves patient or client intake or confidential phone conversations can present a number of challenges. You'll likely want to create a few separate areas with at least some mild soundproofing to help ensure privacy for those entrusting you with their information.
Choosing a few floor-to-ceiling cubicles composed of sound-dampening polycarbonate rather than thin carpeted wood or laminate can go a long way toward providing your office with private space without changing the footprint or incurring much cost. In some cases, you may even be able to rent these cubicles from office furniture companies, rather than purchasing them -- this can be a great option if you plan to move to a larger or more suitable office in the future but need some immediate privacy.
Another option to help improve the privacy of your office is to invest in a few strategically-placed white noise machines. While these machines may seem quiet and unobtrusive, they're excellent at helping dampen the sound of phone or in-person conversations, helping your workplace look and feel more professional while protecting your customers' private information.
What else should you do to safeguard confidential information?
In addition to ensuring your office has an area where patients or customers can provide (or receive) confidential information, you'll want to make sure the written and digital information you do receive is viewed and accessed only by those who are legally permitted to do so.
If your business has computers in a customer-facing area -- or multiple employees with computers in close proximity to one another -- privacy shields for computer monitors may be in order. These shields affix to the front of a computer monitor, allowing the text or information on the screen to be easily visible by those sitting directly in front of the monitor. Look at the monitor from an angle, however, and you'll see only a blank screen. This is ideal for reception areas, where customers or patients may inadvertently catch a glimpse of confidential information on an employee's computer.
You may also want to invest in biometric file storage systems for any paper documents your business generates. While traditional key-locking file cabinets can suffice for confidential document storage in many industries, if you're dealing with especially sensitive information or tend to have high staff turnover, a biometric lock may be a better option. Unlike keys, these locks can't be duplicated -- and with a few presses of the touch screen, you'll be able to grant (or deny) access to anyone on your staff. Biometric safes can also help you determine exactly who has accessed specific files or documents and at what time, helping clear up any questions or concerns you may have about access to confidential information.