Whether you are a therapist, counsellor, health coach, or nutritionist; you are likely aware of the importance of protecting your clients’ personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a set of laws that came into effect in 2018, which require businesses and organisations to take steps to protect the personal data of their clients. If you are in the UK or EU and providing services to UK or EU citizens, then GDPR applies to you.

With technology playing an increasingly important role in the health & wellness industry, it is essential that you are aware of the GDPR requirements. This can be a challenging task, especially for those who are not familiar with the intricacies of data protection and privacy laws.

GDPR compliance isn’t a one-off action or certificate you can obtain, it lives in your processes and ways you operate your business every day.

Having the right processes set up from the beginning will ensure you are operating within the legal requirements, taking the right steps ensure your clients’ privacy, and it will save you time in the future.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure GDPR compliance:

1. Review your data collection practices

Assess the way you collect, store, and process client data. Data processing includes anything from accessing your clients’ information within a database (or filing cabinet), sending emails, to recording a training session, or referring to session notes. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of exactly what data you need to collect and why.

What this looks like in practice: 

– Consider what data you are collecting and why you need it.

– Who has access to your clients’ information? Ensure they only have access to the information you need to share and nothing else.

– Think about how to you will retrieve or delete data for clients if requested.

– Keep a written record of your processes so they are clear in your head

2. Implement clear consent procedures

Obtain clear and explicit consent from your clients before collecting their personal data. Make sure that your clients are fully informed about the data you are collecting and how it will be used.

What this looks like in practice:

– Having clear consent forms and contracts with your clients to communicate what data you will be keeping and how you will be using it.

– Obtaining additional permission to send marketing emails.

– Always ask permission to record a client session and explain the purpose (your note taking, or marketing, for example).

3. Protect client data

Implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to protect personal data from unauthorised access, loss, or theft. This includes measures such as encryption and access controls.

What this looks like in practice:

– Keeping client personal information safe such as storing in locked draw or on encrypted software.

– Ensuring your conversations with your clients cannot be overheard.

– Have a backup of client information in a different location if you are keeping paper records or storing information on a hard drive.

– Using anti-virus software and a VPN on your computer, keeping your software up to date (updates are often for improved security).

– Lock your devices when you’re not using them.

4. Ensure online safety

When operating online, other service providers will be processing yours and your clients’ data. Chose digital service providers carefully and take the right precautions to protect your clients’ privacy.

What this looks like in practice:

– Ensure the digital service providers you use are also compliant with GDPR. This includes video conferencing, email platforms, and practice management software. (check privacy policies or chose UK/EU service providers).

– Using strong passwords for access and authentication (e.g., passwords should be at least 8 characters long, contain upper-case letters, lower-case letters and numbers)

– Logging out of platforms/website when you have finished using them.

– Avoid sharing personal or identifiable information about your clients online such as on social media or by email.

5. Register with the ICO:

Part of the role of the Information Commissioners Office is to educate organisations and the self-employed on Data Protection practices, but their main purpose is to respond to complaints and concerns by members of the public about how their data is being processed.

What this looks like in practice:

– Registration with the ICO is a legal requirement. It costs £40 per year and you can register here https://ico.org.uk/registration/new

– Keep up to date on any changes to requirements and familiarise yourself with the practices that apply to you.

In conclusion, GDPR compliance is crucial for health & wellbeing practitioners operating in the UK. By taking the necessary steps to protect client data, you can ensure that your business operates within the legal requirements and maintain the trust of your clients. With the right tech and policies in place early on, it can ultimately make your life easier, free up time, and improve your clients’ experience.

isosconnect is a practice management platform built specifically for the compliance needs of self-employed UK & EU health & wellness practitioners.

Further Reading:

1. The Essential Guide For Therapists To Protection Of Data, Catherine Knibbs & Gary Hibbard. https://www.childrenandtech.co.uk/shop/p/the-essential-guide

2. Information Commissioner’s Office website. www.ico.org.uk

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