Traditionally, ethical issues are of the paramount importance for healthcare professionals. In fact, the work of a healthcare professional inevitably evoke ethical issues since he or she deals with the treatment of patients that naturally implies getting very personal, private information concerning patients’ health and state. In such a situation, it is extremely important that healthcare professionals could maintain confidentiality of private information they receive from patients because any breach of such kind of information may affect consistently the social position of patients and creates significant problems in the personal life of patients. In addition, this will provoke a distrust of patients to healthcare professionals. In such a situation, it is extremely important to train healthcare professional to observe basic ethical norms and rules that cannot be violated. In this regard, the creation of ethical codes is very important, but, what is even more important, is educating healthcare
professionals bearing in mind basic ethical issues and principles that are formulated in ethical codes. In this respect, the privacy and confidentiality are extremely important issues which healthcare professionals should learn since the beginning of their education and in the course of their professional activities they should observe and protect their patients’ privacy and confidentiality rights strictly. At the same time, today, the problem of the protection of patients’ rights and ethical work of healthcare professionals often confront problems related to the use of modern technologies which increase the risk of information breaches and unauthorized use of private information of patients. In such a context, it is important to focus the research on major threats to the privacy and confidentiality of patients and find out effective tools to protect patients’ right to privacy and confidentiality.
In actuality, many researchers (Walter, 1999) recognize the fact that the privacy and confidentiality are burning ethical issues which can lead to the violation of basic rights of patient and, what is more, the ignorance of basic principles of privacy and confidentiality leads to the consistent deterioration of the relationships between healthcare professionals and their patients. The latter is particularly dangerous because it represents a serious threat to the treatment of patients and the effectiveness of treatment. Some researchers (Andrew, 2003) point out that the effectiveness of treatment depends on the ability of healthcare professionals to establish positive relationships with their patients.
First of all, it should be said that the formation of ethical codes and principles in healthcare system is one of the primary responsibilities of healthcare educators. In this respect, it is important to underline that the introduction of ethical principles and norms in the work of healthcare professionals is very difficult because an ordinary healthcare professional is not always ready or capable to use effectively ethical principles or, what is more, a healthcare professional is not always trained to act ethically (Limentani, 1999). Basically, ethical codes and norms are often viewed as some abstract concepts which have little in common with the actual life and work of healthcare professionals. When healthcare professionals have to save the life of patients, there remains little room for ethical considerations. This is why they need special ethical education and training and, in this regard, the role of healthcare educators can hardly be underestimated.
In fact, healthcare educators should provide healthcare professionals with effective methodology of application of ethical norms and principles in their healthcare practice. In other words, healthcare educators should teach healthcare professionals to apply ethical norms and principles in real life situations. In this respect, it is very important to make these norms and principles really understandable for healthcare professionals in practical terms because the inability to apply theoretical knowledge often results in unethical behavior and decisions taken by healthcare professional that produce a negative impact on patients (Ascension Health, 2005). Basically, it is important to make ethical codes more oriented on practical application.
At the same time, the work of healthcare educators should not be a one-sided process. Instead, they need to receive feedback from healthcare professionals who work on direct with patients and it is healthcare professionals that actually apply ethical norms and principles in their work (Margolin, et al., 2005). This is why healthcare educators need to get information about problems healthcare professionals face, while applying ethical norms and principles in their regular work.
Privacy and confidentiality are extremely important in the contemporary healthcare system, especially in relation to family and child counseling. Basically, the problem of privacy and confidentiality refers not only to ethical but also legal issues since healthcare professionals are obliged to maintain the confidentiality and protect private information of patients from breaches. In this respect, it is often very difficult to distinguish the border between privacy and confidentiality of a patient and family interests because often children need confidentiality, while parents traditionally tend to get the maximum information about their children, their health and current physical and psychological state. In such a situation, healthcare professionals may face a dilemma between preserving privacy and confidentiality of children counseling and treatment and the natural desire of parents to get all information about the treatment and the state of their children.
In the contemporary health care and business environment, the protection of the hardware solely is not enough to ensure the high level of safety of the private information of patients. As it has been already mentioned above, it is necessary to develop the effective information system that should focus on four key factors that define the reliability of the system and its effectiveness: encryption standards; networks access security standards; software firewalls; usage protocols. Basically, all of the four factors are of the utmost importance for the information security but the information system should be able to combine the four factors to maximize its effectiveness.
The establishment of severe and effective encryption standards helps to encrypt data that makes it quite difficult for hackers to decipher the information and steal the private information of patients. In addition, the establishment of the network access standards can raise barriers to access the network from the part of external users, who are not member of the organization, for instance, who are not health care professionals. Finally, software firewalls and usage protocols also need a substantial protection. They cannot be ignored in the course of the development of the information system. Instead, they should raise unsurpassable barrier to any attempts of information breaches. With the help of protected software firewalls and usage protocols, it is possible to control the WLAN and actions of users and minimize the risk of information breaches.
Thus, the information security standards established by the HIPPA are consistently higher to standards existing in the past. Modern organizations, such as hospitals, need to develop new information systems that are fully protected from any attempts of the external interference or information breaches. In actuality, the development of the effective information system should be backed up with the protection of the hardware and other devices that can be used to get an unauthorized access to the private information of patients.
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