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A Facebook Sidebar: Privacy

Mental health and addictions professionals require tools. For a couple decades, Terry McLeod has been a trailblazer providing those tools in the form of Electronic ...Read More

Around June 21st, I published my comments on Facebook for business on this website…I just didn’t know it had become so important to augment a business site with a Facebook presence. Now I know. Interestingly, the visits to my website jumped by fifty percent for the month. I believe that was simply because Facebook is so doggone popular and my blog came up in the search engines more.

I recently attended the NIATx conference in Boston, and H Westley Clark, Director of CSAT was a featured speaker. He mentioned in his address that one of the difficulties in delivering treatment documentation to consumers is that it may end up on Facebook. This brings up aspects of confidentiality that are important not only to the consumer, but also to the professional and even the organization they work for.

The Electronic Health Record (EHR) is becoming more and more expansive these days. In addition to the assessments, treatment plans and progress notes, you might see brain scans or even recordings of telemedicine sessions. I asked Jim Mountain, a vendor of telemedicine software, about recording sessions. He advised that it can certainly be done, however, would a professional want to do to that when there’s a danger it could end up on YouTube? All the systems I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a ton) have proven secure, and hackers are not likely to effectively plumb for health information, however, all health records are available to consumers, who might make a decision to share portions of the record on social media. If you’re a professional, consider how you’d feel if your notes were shared that way, or your sessions broadcast.

I believe the consumer’s health record is their property as much as the professionals and the organization they work for. It needs to be guarded, and is. A friend of mine manages a business that protects the consumer identity of methadone treatment recipients from the state…42 CFR prohibits even the state from knowing the identity of consumers they are paying for with Medicaid. The point of this is protection. It’s pretty good these days as long as records aren’t accessed on a lost laptop computer or published on Facebook or YouTube. I doubt it’s likely to happen, but it could. Perhaps an agreement between the consumer and the professional to keep the record that’s provided to the consumer confidential is in order.

This is a huge issue. A couple years ago, Duke FUQUA School of Business published their take on just how huge it is. And they’re not the only ones who’ve been debating, just search of the web on this subject, and you’ll find no shortage of opinions.

This is great food for thought about security, and while the consumer’s privacy is paramount in the business of mental health and substance abuse treatment, it seems to me that the professional’s privacy deserves some respect. And I think that’s the point, professionals spend a considerable amount of time and energy learning their craft, and the subtleties of what they do may be lost on a casual reader, followed by misconceptions that could affect the professional’s business or reputation.

I found these revelations fascinating comments on how our world is changing and Facebook is taking over the world. It will be interesting to watch this issue escalate.

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