In last month’s newsletter we reported an article describing an incident in a hospital operating room where staff and physicians were snapping pictures of an unconscious patient with a genital injury. As outrageous as this incident sounds we all know this is not an isolated incident. This got us thinking, what would we really do in this situation? Curious as to how people would react, we polled our office staff and a few people said they would turn around and walk out, they did not want to get involved. Others said they would stop the incident and report it immediately stating this was violating the patients’ rights to privacy and confidentiality. Interestingly from the few answers collected, the results fell on polar opposite sides of the spectrum. With such varied responses our curiosity was peaked even more so we decided to poll our readers.
We surveyed hundreds of healthcare professionals and the largest majority would take action to stop the incident and report it to either their supervisor or administration. A smaller but still significant group of 15-25 percent said they would stop the incident but they would not report the HIPPA violation to anyone. Only 3 percent would turn a blind eye but still report it and 3 percent replied that they did not want to be involved. They would walk out and keep quiet.
Another case study included in the survey involved an infant, profanity, social media and a healthcare worker that seemed to be experiencing some major frustration with their job. Hospital staffers were videoed holding the babies by the armpits, dancing around with them and making obscene gestures at a newborn as well calling the babies “mini Satan’s”. The scenario went viral on social media and just as we expected the responses to our survey were not as fragmented as in the first case study mentioned above. The largest majority of people polled would stop the incident immediately and report it to their supervisor or hospital administration. 6 percent would stop the incident but not report it. Shockingly there were a 1 percent of people surveyed that would turn and walk out without taking action and not report the incident to anyone. Is this acceptable? Needless to say, based on our survey, baby safety ranks much higher for action.
The third case study involved a celebrity who was involved in an accident and hospital staffers were caught accessing the celebrity’s medical records. While this is a HIPPA violation our audience’s response was split. We did not have a strong majority. Less than 50 percent of people surveyed felt this violation was something to report and over half would let it go without reporting. When the celebrity found out about the breach in privacy he was very gracious in saying that while he appreciated that the incident was handled appropriately he had hoped that no one lost their job over the incident. Would you have been so forgiving?
The fourth incident involved talking with a patient about their procedure in a busy waiting room. The question concerned witnessing a co-worker who inadvertently divulged PHI about a patient to onlookers in the waiting room. Surprisingly, our readers wanted action to be taken. The conflict between responses varied between people that would report the incident to a supervisor and counseling the co-worker themselves. The people who would do nothing was zero.
The moral and ethical dilemmas in the healthcare setting take many forms. These case studies are just a few examples of events where healthcare workers were forced to make decisions that affect not only the patients’ lives but the lives of co-workers as well. Some events have more serious implications than others, but in the eyes of the law a violation is a violation. We must not be undecided in our decision making process nor must we live in fear for simply doing what is right. We only have to wait for the next news cycle to hear of the next horrific incident in which behaviors go unreported and have disastrous results. Think about it. “What would you do?”