The advent of technology has created ease of use in application in several industries, careers and jobs, especially when the equipment needed in those fields is heavily reliant or includes the full use of such. From construction to retail, technology has revolutionized and irrevocably changed the way that people perform their jobs. However, the use of technology and its rapid growth is also a part of professions in which the rules, regulations and standards have not entirely caught up with the time. With the freedom and ephemerality that technology provides, it also comes with ethical considerations regarding how it can put people’s private and confidential information at risk. The purpose of this paper is to describe the importance of patient privacy and confidentiality, issues that are at the heart of the relationship between technology and nursing.
In this situation, Jennifer works in a cath lab and has concerns about how mobile technology is carving out a place for itself within her workplace and its possible encroachment on patient confidentiality and privacy. There have been several incidents that have raised Jennifer’s concerns: a fellow coworker took a picture of patients in the waiting area and posted it to Facebook, nurses and physicians began texting back and forth about patients and at times, not abbreviating their names, and physicians, nurses and techs shared a Google Calendar to view the schedule in real time. As this had not been approved by the Information Technology department or the Compliance Officer, Jennifer felt that she could not put a stop to it, especially since the manager was in agreement with the mobile phone use.
The strategies that my organization has in place relative to smartphone use is to ensure that any patient data remains confidential and can “disappear” from smartphones. Unlike this situation, mobile devices have to be registered for use on hospital grounds, barring the use of taking video or photo, which is completely forbidden. Using a two-layer authentication system, patient data and information is protected and for programs including scheduling, note-taking and patient care, it simply serves as a backup. For this reason, the data is not retained on any particular device; it is only on there momentarily for quick ease of access and only stays there for two to three days before self-destruction. In regard to text message communication, it is forbidden in the organization. Communication between nurses, techs and physicians takes place within an application created by the IT department that facilitates quicker communication, but is supervised by the department and the compliance officer. Punishment for using a patient’s full name is swift and just and the employee’s job is dependent on their adherence to the rules. When a message is sent, it does not last forever. The messages are automatically erased after the two to three day limit in order to maintain a patient’s privacy, yet official hospital records and notes serve as the first place to go when information is needed. In addition, the WiFi network on which the hospital employees use phones is password protected.
On a personal level, I make sure that any messaging that I send is done with full disclosure and maintenance of privacy of patients. I, as everyone else is, am barred from taking photo and video on site and I check my messages thoroughly to ensure that patient names are abbreviated and there is no revealing information that could possibly be called into question by the Information Technology department or our facility’s Compliance Officer. I protect patient health information by sending messages very carefully and reading over them repeatedly. I believe that these are helpful in protecting patient information, especially since the regulations are set by the higher-ups within the hospital.
- Can You Protect Patients’ Health Information When Using a Public Wi-Fi Network? (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/can-you-protect-patients-health-information-when-using-public-wi-fi-network
- Dr. Anderson’s Office Identifies a Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/dr-andersons-office-identifies-risk
- Worried About Using a Mobile Device for Work? Here’s What To Do! video. (n.d.). Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://www.healthit.gov/providers-professionals/worried-about-using-mobile-device-work-heres-what-do-video