Ethics to Healthcare
The internet has changed how people send and receive information in all sectors today. The healthcare and health information sector has not been left behind as people can now receive all sorts of information on the internet. As a result, there is mounting pressure from healthcare professionals to have all parties using the internet for health-care purposes to come together ,to ensure that only the right information is provided to the user. Such a community would lead to creation of an environment based on trusted relationships aimed at assuring that only high quality information and services are offered to the consumer (Morero & Rice, 2013). This is more so in terms of protecting the consumer’s privacy, offering quality products and services, as well as improving the value of the internet to providers of health information and their consumers.
The above information would go a long way in helping to create a competitive e-Health Code of Ethics aimed at guiding staff members in use of e-Health data while simultaneously building trust among patients. Objectives set forth by e-Health Code of Ethics would also play a significant role in ensuring that users’ can entrust their private information to their care providers online. The most primary objective of -Health Code of Ethics is ensuring that people from all over the world can confidently realize the potential of utilizing the use of the internet in managing their health, and those in their care, but with full understanding of the risks that might be involved (Cowie et al, 2016). The final e-Health Ethics Summit, held on 31st January 2000 in Washington DC established e-Health guidelines under eight significant pillars. They include; privacy, candor, quality, informed consent, honesty, responsible partnering, professionalism in online health care and accountability.
Under these guidelines, individuals and organizations offering health information on the internet have a responsibility of providing high quality content, trustworthy services, protect users’ information and also meet best practices standards of online professional services and online commerce in healthcare (Martin, 2014). Therefore, I believe that the above guidelines are all I would have to implement in my organization, while observing the eight pillars stipulated in the e-Health guidelines.
The other aspect would be to ensure that patients’ information is well protected in line with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. The HIPAA Privacy Rule demands that all health care organizations must implement the appropriate safeguards to protect client’s health information (Martin, 2014). The rules also set limits and conditions on the disclosure as well as the use of personal information without the patient’s consent. These rules apply to any system or individual with access to private and confidential patient data. According to Murero & Rice (2013), “The terminology “access” applies for parties with means to read, write, modify or communicate electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI) or personal identifiers that may reveal the identity of an individual.”
The HIPAA Privacy rules have been identified as the measuring standards of protecting confidential patient data in any organization. Therefore, if I were to construct a new e-Health Code of ethics for my hospital, I would combine the code of ethics identified above with the HIPAA rules to guarantee patient data safety, while simultaneously building trust among patients.
There are three parts of the HIPAA security rule, which include: technical safeguards, physical safeguard and administrative safeguards.
Technical safeguards focus on the technology implanted to protect ePHI as well as provide access to patient data (Cowie et al, 2016). This focus stipulates that ePHI should be encrypted to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards whether at rest or even when in transit. More so if the data travels beyond the internal firewalled servers of an organization, to ensure that any breach of confidential data renders it undecipherable, unreadable and unusable.
I would ensure that the technical safeguards implemented in my hospital were up to the HIPAA standards to ensure that measures implemented to protect patient information were up to NIST standards. This would ensure that at no point a third party with no right to access the information would ever read, decipher or use patient information even if he managed to breach our system.
The physical safeguards concern any physical access to electronically Protected Health Information (ePHI) regardless of its location. According to Murero & Rice (2013), ePHI may be stored in the cloud, in a remote date center, or even on servers within a HIPAA covered organization or entity.
In my organization, I would ensure that only the professionals had access to patient information, regardless of where it was stored. This would go a long way in building patients’ trust in my organization while at the same case promoting e-Health ethics amongst my staff, since no one would have access to information they were not supposed to handle.
The Administration safeguards focus on procedures as well as policies that bring together both the Security Rule and the Privacy Rule. The two rules are the most significant elements of HIPAA compliance checklist, and demand that there should be a Privacy Officer and a Security Officer assigned to install measures in place aimed at protecting ePHI (Martin, 2014). The two officers are also entrusted with governing the conduction of the staff safeguarding the ePHI. There should also be an Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services (OCR) pilot whose duty is auditing any identified risks assessments, the most primary non-compliance area of the Security Rule. There are also other risk assessment audits carried out to ensure that the organization in question not only conducted a risk assessment, but also has a comprehensive and an ongoing one. This is a regular task that has to be carried out as many times as possible to guarantee continued compliance.
I believe that this is another significant aspect that would go a long way in helping me construct and implement a competitive code of ethics in my hospital. This is because regular assessments would help in identifying any risks from both the unauthorized staff as well as other intruders who may have tried to access private patient data. As I had pointed out earlier, objectives set forth by e-Health Code of Ethics are aimed at in ensuring that users’ can entrust their private information to their care providers online. Therefore, regular audits applied within the administrative safeguards of the HIPAA Security Rule would go a long way towards ensuring that my hospitals observe the eight pillars of the e-Health Code of Ethics.
To achieve all the above, I must also be governed by my personal code of ethics. My personal code of ethics is guided by my personal mission statement, which is to participate in improvement of the health, safety as well as the well-being without fear or favor. This means that I have to inhibit a high degree of alertness, competence and ethical practices in my field. My code of ethics borrows extensively from the nursing code of ethics set forth by the American Nursing Association. For instance, the ANA code of ethics call for “collective responsibility through professional associations (ANA, 2015).” This provision seeks to promote and clarify personal accountability in my practice. This means that regardless of where I may be on this world, whether in a managerial position or working as a social worker, I must always uphold the nursing code of ethics. This means that the safety, health and the well-being of a patient is my number one priority, regardless of where they are in the world, their condition or how they are perceived in the society.
I believe that every healthcare professional should have a personal mission statement, and a personal code of ethics. According to ANA (2015), when health care professionals have a firm foundation of ethical knowledge, they place the needs of the patients before any other organizational bureaucracies, and also uphold the integrity as well as the principles of health care. These authors also argue that they are treat all their patients with compassion, respect and inherent dignity regardless of the nature of their health problems, socio-economic status or personal attributes. In a way, there are the same objectives being invoked by e-Health Code of Ethics and the HIPAA Security and Privacy rules. They advocate for global access to health information through the internet, and the means of safeguarding the confidentiality of patient information.
American Nurses Association (ANA) (Ed.). (2015). Nursing's social policy statement: The essence of the profession. Nursesbooks. org.
Cowie, M. R., Bax, J., Bruining, N., Cleland, J. G., Koehler, F., Malik, M., … & Vardas, P. (2016). e-Health: a position statement of the European Society of Cardiology. European heart journal, 37(1), 63-66.
Martin, M. L. (2014). HIPAA Compliant Clouds: A Reality that Should Not Become a Missed Opportunity by Health Care Providers. UMKC L. Rev., 83, 449.
Murero, M., & Rice, R. E. (2013). The Internet and health care: theory, research, and practice. Routledge.