It’s 1:20am and I went to bed hours ago. But I tossed and turned and then suddenly a thought occurred to me: what if I have violated HIPAA in some way, even though I have been careful since Day 1? I would be in so much trouble. I mean, I had changed names and details and everything, but maybe I hadn’t been vague enough! My mind raced.
I got up and turned on my computer and went back to the few posts I had made that involved patient stories. Even though I’m pretty confident they were edited enough to be more than safe, I made them even vaguer and literally changed the entire story-lines so that only the moral lesson remained intact. And therefore the stories became a lot more boring. I think most people like to read specifics, and it is incredibly frustrating to change my painstakingly detailed journal entries of student-experience into soul-less tidbits devoid of personality.
The reasons behind HIPAA are obviously very important. I totally respect that. It’s just hard to figure out how to share experiences with others without crossing any lines.
I guess I need to figure out how to use fake specifics without people thinking I am violating HIPAA. I read a lot of blogs written by medical-field people and it seems like they all go through waves of paranoia where they worry about somehow violating HIPAA or thinking their employers are going to punish them if they find them. Several of them have been sued or fired. They live in fear. I don’t want that. It seems like some of them get around the issue by using specifics in their stories, but then using a site disclaimer saying everything they write is fiction, based on composite characters they’ve encountered in their career. Of course, as a new student, I can’t really draw on a huge pool of patient stories.
But hypothetically, it seems like the bloggers could say, Oh this is fiction, don’t mind me HIPAA…and then blithely write just the exact details of what went on, gambling that there is no chance of their patient ever stumbling across that blog and therefore never being reported. I wonder how many bloggers do that.
I guess it would be safest if I just continue what I am doing. Which is making things really overtly vague, or occasionally telling a story using made-up details that still allows me to reach the same conclusion in my learning. But that isn’t much fun.
I guess I need some HIPAA therapy.
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