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Health Care Attorney Warns About HIPAA Privacy Issues In Social Media

This is the first of a three part post addressing the legal concerns of social networking in the health care arena.

Legal expert, David Harlow, Esq., Health Care Attorney and Consultant at The Harlow Group, LLC in Boston, addresses the legal issues.

Q:  Barbara:
What are the legal implications for doctors, nurses and hospitals engaging in social media?

A:  David: Health care providers are concerned about HIPAA privacy issues – HIPAA violations may occur as a result of staff posts, or as a result of patient, family or caregiver posts – as well as potential liability for medical advice provided on line.  Physicians and nurses have been sanctioned and fired for privacy breaches via social media, so these are real concerns.  Some communications that folks think are OK may in fact be violations of HIPAA or state privacy laws, so great care in training is needed.  In addition, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

How To Take Back Control Of Your Google Searches

Eli Pariser talks at TED about how we’re losing the internet to algorithmic gatekeepers at Google, Yahoo, Facebook and even our news sites, which tailor search results to what they think we want to see. Which is why I often start exploring my search results on page 10 instead of page 1. But what if some search results don’t even make it onto my queue?

The side by side comparison of two different users’ internet search on the term “Egypt” during the crisis there is a stunning example of how computerized gatekeepers choose for us what we see (and don’t see) when we log on.

You can’t have a functioning democracy if citizens don’t have a free flow of information.

I encourage you to watch the entire video, and hope the big mahoffs of the internet sitting in the TED audience heard Pariser when he told them this  - Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

Making Sure You Have The Right Diagnosis: Tips From An Internet-Savvy Patient

People generally have a sense there might be information on the Web that can help them when they are worried about their health. They also have a sense there is a LOT of information and some of it may be wrong. All of that is true. What is a strategy to find the good and avoid the bad?

This morning, I chatted with Mike Collins, host of “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE, public radio in Charlotte, North Carolina about The Web-Savvy Patient and some of my “Insider Tips” within. We talked at length about how you can get started looking for health information on the Web.

First of all, if you’re worried about your health, make sure you get an accurate diagnosis, and make sure that diagnosis is specific to you. Don’t be satisfied if your health care team tells you that you have a “thyroid problem.” Find out if it is hyperthyroidism or hypothryroidism. It makes a big difference. If you don’t know what you have you will find yourself wandering all over the Internet, discovering information that won’t be right for you. You might be lead to believe that you have a brain tumor, rather than a migraine induced by monthly hormones or the effects of too much coffee (we know that one here in Seattle!). So rule #1 is know the details of your diagnosis and if you don’t feel confident, recognizing some people are misdiagnosed, get a second opinion to confirm it. Then, and only then, should you start your search online. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Health Data Rights – Facilitating Personal Responsibility

My colleague, Alan Greene, has been in the lead with a group of professionals putting forth a declaration of health data rights and, as founder of eDoc, I am completely in support of it. He points out that more than 7 percent of abnormal tests results fall through the cracks, according to a study released today in the Archives of Internal Medicine. According to Alan, as quoted today in his blog: “Whether we use this power to track our family’s medications, BMIs, lead levels, vaccines, or allergies, by being more actively engaged I believe we can make better health choices, reduce costs, reduce errors, and enjoy better health. Too often, bureaucracy, old thinking, or paternalistic concerns keep people from having their own health data or from having the courage to act on it.

I believe this is about to change. On June 22, 2009, we released a Declaration of Health Data Rights a profound, simple statement that, among other things, we all have the right – the license – to take possession of a complete copy of our health data without delay and at minimal cost, in a computable form if our lab data or pharmacy records or growth charts or other health data exist in that form….This doesn’t mean that we won’t value physicians and others who have devoted their lives to a study of health, but it does mean that we will engage with them in a new and more effective way…I hear concerns from some doctors that patients shouldn’t have a set of keys: they won’t make safe drivers. And it would be dangerous, for instance, for patients to be able to get worrisome lab results or biopsy results without someone present to reassure them. As I’ve heard more than once, what if this led to suicidal behavior?

Yes, I think it’s valuable to have support when getting bad news, but I also think the choice of whether to have support, when, and what kind belongs to the person getting the news. Our routine of keeping people in the dark until we are ready for them to get information is too a high price to pay. What if people misinterpret or misuse their own health data in less extreme situations? No one has a greater interest in an individual’s health than that individual and their loved ones. Armed with up-to-date data, they are free to consult experts and other resources as they wish. Our health is our responsibility, and having our own data is essential to taking charge.

The Declaration of Health Rights is simple, clear, and self-evident – but I expect the implications of this Declaration will continue to unfold over the years to come What if people misinterpret or misuse their own health data in less extreme situations? No one has a greater interest in an individual’s health than that individual and their loved ones. Armed with up-to-date data, they are free to consult experts and other resources as they wish. Our health is our responsibility, and having our own data is essential to taking charge…One natural extension of this will be people’s ability to order lab tests for themselves.

Of course, insurance will only pay for the tests if the situation warrants, but if your child has a sore throat and a fever, why shouldn’t you be able to order a strep test? Or if you’re a parent in your thirties or forties and have high cholesterol, why shouldn’t you be able to have your child’s cholesterol levels checked? We live in a country that allows people to smoke cigarettes and carry guns. Having our health data is far less dangerous and carries with it the possibility of great good. Let’s shake hands; let’s pick up our keys.

To learn more about the Declaration of Health Data Rights, click here.

To become a signer of the Declaration, click here.”

Thanks, Alan, for stating this so well. I couldn’t do it better than you, so thanks for allowing me to quote you!

*This blog post was originally published at eDocAmerica*

Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex

As if we needed any more indications that the sexuality education we teach in schools might not be working, the latest place for teens to find answers to their questions is via cell phone.

In spite of web sites that allow teens to ask anonymous questions like We’re Talking Teen Health and Go Ask Alice!, teens are still looking for answers to immediate sexuality-related questions, and texting them is the newest way to get answers.

In California, teens can text their sexuality questions to ISIS by texting the word ‘hookup’ to the phone number 365247 which will allow them to sign up for weekly health tips. Each tip contains a prompt to text the word ‘clinic’ plus a zip code to get contact information for two local clinics.

In North Carolina, they can text questions to The Birds and Bees Text Line. Both services provide non-judgmental and medically accurate information within 24 hours to teens with questions.

Neither site provides medical advice, only information from an adult and encouragement to seek medical care. The important part is that these services are another place teens can reach out to adults for information and support.

I worry a little bit about what happens when teens admit they were raped, or are being sexually abused – what do the adults receiving this information do – and are they responsible for reporting what they learn to the authorities, but I guess that is a abridge we cross when we come to it.

For now, I am happy there are more adults willing to provide the information teens need to make good decisions, get medical care, and protect themselves. As always, parents would be the best source of sexuality information, but they might need their own texting site for their questions!

This post, Reaching Adults – Teens Text Questions About Sex, was originally published on by Nancy Brown, Ph.D..

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