ONS 2014: Health IT and Ethics in Oncology-Do No Harm

May 5, 2014
Michelle Bragazzi, BS, RN
Michelle Bragazzi, BS, RN

With the boom of technological advances and the increased use of social media come the potential ethical issues surrounding patient privacy and confidentiality.

With the boom of technological advances and the increased use of social media come the potential ethical issues surrounding patient privacy and confidentiality.

A discussion of these issues was presented at the session, “Health Information Technology and Ethics in Oncology: Do No Harm,” by Amy Strauss Tranin, APRN, MS, AOCN, Anne Ireland, MSN, RN, AOCN, CENP, Gabriela Kaplan, RN, MSN, AOCN, and Michele Gaguski, MSN, RN, AOCN, CHPN, APN-C, at the 2014 Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Annual Congress.

We are all familiar with the Five Rights of Medication Administration, but what about health information rights? For example:

• Right information

• Right patient

• Right location

• Right healthcare provider

• Right to privacy

The speakers defined the term “privacy” as protection of the patient/client from having to reveal personal information not needed in the healthcare context and from others outside of the medical arena. They went on to also describe “confidentiality” as the protection of information about the patient that is critical in the healthcare context, but should not be revealed to others outside of the medical arena.

Regardless of terminology, anything that can identify a patient, whether it’s paper, electronic medical records, faxes, emails, texts, or even verbal conversation in the hallway, requires strict confidentiality at all times, in and outside of the medical setting.

There’s also the issue with social media. How many of you have discussed a patient on Facebook or Twitter without mentioning the patient’s name, but using descriptive enough characteristics that could easily identify the patient? For example, “I cared for a Philadelphia Phillies player today.” You need to be cautious about posting work-related information and pictures that may include a patient, and you should avoid making inappropriate, derogatory comments online.

“POST” is a helpful acronym to keep in mind when it comes to patient confidentiality and privacy:

• Privacy: “Am I protecting this person?”

• Outcome: “What will happen if I post this?”

• Sharing: “Should this information be shared?”

• Technology: “Should I use technology to communicate this information?”

What do you do to maintain patient confidentiality and privacy?