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In the world of sophisticated information technologies, ethics remains an effective guarantee of stability and regulatory compliance. McGonigle and Mastrian (2012) describe ethics as the system of values, principles, and decision-making models that create favorable conditions for effective ethical performance in the whirl of the rapidly evolving information technologies. The use of health information technologies is intended for making a contribution to an overall culture of safety in healthcare organizations. Numerous strategies and tools are used to ensure that HIT do not undermine the culture of safety and compliance. “The use of expert systems, decision support tools, evidence-based practice, and artificial intelligence in the care of patients” creates important safety challenges (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2012, p. 76). Simultaneously, these tools can serve as effective supplements to the basic safety strategies developed in healthcare. Rules and procedures for using information technologies empower nurses to use these technologies in a meaningful way.
Ethical and Security Issues in HIT
Obviously, numerous ethical and security issues arise in relation to the increased access to newer and smaller information storage devices. In most cases, software applications are rather complex, and inappropriate or incorrect use of HIT may lead to information leaks and ethical failures (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). Hoffman and Podgurski (2011) further suggest that complex system interfaces may result in disclosing and using information, which is either irrelevant or fragmented. Any inaccuracies in patient information or unprofessional use of information technology systems may result in subsequent ethical inaccuracies and failures such as patient information disclosure, wrong medication prescription and use, poor confidentiality protection, and poor quality of patient care. Future technologies will create new ethical challenges. McGonigle and Mastrian (2012) describe some of them. For example, as patients and healthcare providers use new technologies to interact, the former will need to solve the licensing issues touching electronic consultations (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2012). Another example relates to the issue of information exchange in population health initiatives. Under the impact of new technologies, healthcare providers will find it particularly difficult to maintain a reasonable balance of confidentiality and information disclosure (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2012).
Nurses’ Role in Ensuring Safety and Security
Nurses play one of the chief roles in ensuring the safety, security, confidentiality, and privacy of patients’ information. Modern consumers are particularly concerned about the safety and security of their information (Dimitropoulos, Scheffler & Posnack, 2011). Nurses are the principal intermediaries in the complex relationships between physicians and patients. As a result, the need for developing a new relationship involving patients, nurses, physicians, and technologies becomes urgent (Rothstein, 2010). Unfortunately, new technologies create new difficulties for nurses because they provide easy access to patient information and, at the same time, challenge earlier conceptions of privacy and confidentiality. Moreover, in the age of HIT, nurses find it particularly burdensome to limit the amount of information disclosed to healthcare providers (Rothstein, 2010).
Strategies to Safeguard Patient Information and Areas of Improvement
As a result, hospitals apply to a variety of strategies to safeguard patient information and promote a culture of safety. The strategies are often based on limiting providers’ access to patient information (Rothstein, 2010). Established certification criteria facilitate the implementation of the meaningful use criteria, which promise to reduce the risks of ethics failures in HIT (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). However, it is worth noting that a culture of safety cannot be created without engaging in a rigorous process of developing and evaluating the system (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). Besides, many physicians still find it inappropriate to be limited in their use of patient information (Rothstein, 2010). Thus, standardization of safety regulations and physician responsibilities in relation to HIT represent the most essential area for improvement. By setting explicit boundaries on the use of patient information and clarifying the scope of physicians’ and nurses’ responsibilities, healthcare providers can greatly contribute to the culture of safety in their organizations.