Question about confidentiality

  1. First, let me say that I love this forum, even when it's a bit sticky or controversial. I think healthy disagreement can be a good thing.

    I do have a question about patient confidentiality. I've been out of nursing but plan to return soon. Maybe a lot has changed since I left, but I do remember that we were strictly taught to not discuss patients, their diagnoses, etc. In fact, we were told that there were liability issues even if we discussed patients without naming names if they could be recognized from our conversations.

    I am surprised, then, to see patients and their cases and outcomes discussed so openly on the forum. If I were a patient, I think I could recognize myself from some of the content. Mind you, I enjoy it and learn from it, but it is a concern?

    Just wondering.
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  2. 19 Comments

  3. by   clee1
    In an international forum such as allnurses, it would be exceedingly difficult to determine who exactly any one poster might be discussing.

    How many nurses, hospitals, cities, states, countries, etc. are represented here? Far too many to narrow it down to a specific pt in a specific hospital in a specific place I assure you.

    However, I do see what concerns you. Sometimes I think we are too specific about a case we discuss.
  4. by   Elisheva
    If you give your state, your age and some other personal information in your profile and enough client detail, I think a good lawyer might be able to figure it out. Some people actually name the facilities they work in, which would make it pretty darn easy.
  5. by   nuangel1
    i never discuss individual cases here and i have only general info in my profile.you have to be careful.
  6. by   babynurselsa
    IT is rare that any of the things we discuss are completely unique to one individual. It is admonished on this site not to give personal identifier info when relating something.
    As previously stated this site is huge. There are well over 100,000 members in every corner of the world.
  7. by   gonzo1
    You are absolutely right. It is important to be very discreet, and best not to discuss individual patients or cases. Maintaining pt confidentiality can be a challenge but can and should be done.
  8. by   gonzo1
    You are absolutely right. It is important to be very discreet, and best not to discuss individual patients or cases. Maintaining pt confidentiality can be a challenge but can and should be done.
  9. by   TazziRN
    I have seen some posts about cases where I thought, "That sounds like my pt!" It's hard to pinpoint exactly who it is being discussed without identifiers.
  10. by   acgemt
    You do bring up a good point about confidentiality. I would imagine that non-nursing citizens would easily be able to look up this site, and view the contents. I feel though that the information we provide for one another is a means of education. We are all able to learn from everyones' experiences. We are not using patient identifiers such as name and birthdate.
  11. by   Elisheva
    There are several people on the forum who are not nurses. There's a thread where nurses post about errors they've made. ? Not so sure I'd put that out there.

    Information is too easily obtained these days. Wonder if lawyers ever peruse the site?
  12. by   traumaRUs
    I'm sure lawyers might puruse the site. However, we do emphasize that putting out personal information on the internet; either by naming names or other identifying information or having your real name as your user name is very dangerous.
  13. by   maryshome8
    I'm currently working on pre-reqs for nursing school, but have a degree in Psychology...when I was working on my undergrad, I had to take a course in experimental psychology and this very subject was pounded into our brains regarding ethics in testing and reporting.

    You have two issues: Hospital policy and patient-caregiver confidentiality.

    We were taught, as a general privacy rule, that you can mention any situation about any patient as long as identifying factors are not used.

    For example, you never use a name, first or last, if you have to do something in writing you can make up a name or use initials. Age is not considered identifying factors. General profession is ok, but exact job title or place of employment should not be used. Marital status is ok, number of children is ok, but the children should never be mentioned as being male or female. Sexual orientation is ok (this could be a significant factor), but the place where someone is from is never relevant (but in nursing it might if someone has a disease that is highly contagious), and other identifying information about their hometown is usually not relevant.

    Imagine, if you couldn't discuss anything, how this would limit care? Nurses couldn't compare stories and learn from each other. Situations could never be reviewed in a hospital staff meeting in order to improve care, or to educate inexperienced nurses, which is very valuable.

    The hospital may have a policy (and you should check with that), but as far as what is considered general ethics? What I have described above is not a privacy violation.






    Quote from Elisheva
    First, let me say that I love this forum, even when it's a bit sticky or controversial. I think healthy disagreement can be a good thing.

    I do have a question about patient confidentiality. I've been out of nursing but plan to return soon. Maybe a lot has changed since I left, but I do remember that we were strictly taught to not discuss patients, their diagnoses, etc. In fact, we were told that there were liability issues even if we discussed patients without naming names if they could be recognized from our conversations.

    I am surprised, then, to see patients and their cases and outcomes discussed so openly on the forum. If I were a patient, I think I could recognize myself from some of the content. Mind you, I enjoy it and learn from it, but it is a concern?

    Just wondering.
  14. by   Elisheva
    Quote from maryshome8
    I'm currently working on pre-reqs for nursing school, but have a degree in Psychology...when I was working on my undergrad, I had to take a course in experimental psychology and this very subject was pounded into our brains regarding ethics in testing and reporting.

    You have two issues: Hospital policy and patient-caregiver confidentiality.

    We were taught, as a general privacy rule, that you can mention any situation about any patient as long as identifying factors are not used.

    For example, you never use a name, first or last, if you have to do something in writing you can make up a name or use initials. Age is not considered identifying factors. General profession is ok, but exact job title or place of employment should not be used. Marital status is ok, number of children is ok, but the children should never be mentioned as being male or female. Sexual orientation is ok (this could be a significant factor), but the place where someone is from is never relevant (but in nursing it might if someone has a disease that is highly contagious), and other identifying information about their hometown is usually not relevant.

    Imagine, if you couldn't discuss anything, how this would limit care? Nurses couldn't compare stories and learn from each other. Situations could never be reviewed in a hospital staff meeting in order to improve care, or to educate inexperienced nurses, which is very valuable.

    The hospital may have a policy (and you should check with that), but as far as what is considered general ethics? What I have described above is not a privacy violation.

    The factors you have described are not privacy violations because they are conversations taking place between caretakers on a need-to-know basis. Discussing patient information on a public forum doesn't meet that criteria.

    Just my opinion.

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