Caution! You have computers at work!

A brief cautionary reminder

I consider myself fairly 'tech-savvy' but I feel that I am sort of on the upper age bracket of the facebook generation. To be more specific, I grew up with computers, had the internet and IM through adolescence, but was already old in techno-world once myspace and facebook came along. But this is a relevant topic for anyone living in the computer age, because I think we all take the machines for granted.

Everyone familiar w/ computers knows that emails, IMs, blog posts, etc can live (basically) forever on servers and be accessed later by other parties. Most everyone has a tale of someone seeing something they wrote that was never intended for their eyes, with embarrassing consequences. At work, they can be more than embarrassing. Any employee accessing a work computer nowadays has to sign an agreement about what can and can't be done on that computer. Most companies have filters that prevent you from accessing certain websites- our hospital has a particularly annoying filter that blocks anything with the word "store" in the title or address, which makes it really hard to print out pictures of devices for our patients. You can get in trouble for coming up against the block too often, though fortunately I haven't.

If you have access to medical records on your computer, then confidentiality agreements and especially HIPAA hold you to a certain standard for how you access that information. You will undoubtedly sign contracts that indicate that you will only access the charts which you NEED to know medical details about. And to ensure this, your facility can do an audit at any time, of any chart, they will also do this if there is a specific complaint of someone breaching the agreement. While any chart can be audited, charts belonging to other workers at the facility or VIPs are more likely to be checked. A coworker recently got written up for doing what a lot of people do- looking up records on family members. No OT orders, so no "need to know," and a violation.

Another tool that can be used is a keystroke recorder. That means that ALL your emails can be monitored and reread, that the website addresses you enter are all recorded, anything. A friend of mine who works in a non-healthcare industry recently had a problem with this and lost a job. What was the offense? Typing an offensive word, and then deleting it. That's right, no clients or bosses saw this typed on any papers or walked by the computer screen, and it was still enough to lose a job.

So be careful, because it's not just probability anymore, at least not in my world.

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