Advocating for Patient Privacy in the Workplace Part II : Go Forth and Seek Like-Minded Professionals.

 

In part one of this post series I talked about the precarious and sensitive nature of patient privacy advocacy in the workplace and why advocates face hurdles when going against the grain within their organization and voicing concerns about the business practice of off-shoring medical records. We've established that there are layers of complexity and opposing values that must co-exist peacefully in order for the team to remain intact. 

But sometimes the team doesn't remain intact.  Sometimes the decision to off-shore a portion of an organization's HIM functions means that hard-working team members are laid off and departments are downsized.  Sometimes it means people left standing spend their work day under crippling tension and fear.

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This is scary.  We're not living in Valhalla here in the United States and the loss of a job is absolutely devastating.  The emotional toll is considerable and I'm sure there is a type of PTSD that comes with not only being laid off, but watching peers get pink slips and then waiting around to see who's number comes up next.  The pain is real and you can read more about it here and here.

In situations like this, emotions run high, fear is instilled within the remaining members of the organization and everyone's fight or flight instinct kick in.  It's hard to think straight and it's practically impossible to maintain perspective. Especially when you know for a fact that, ultimately, the medical records of your patient population are safest in the hands of a workforce that is fully accountable to HIPAA.

So I hope you'll allow me to say (as someone who has been there) that this is a great opportunity to shift your gaze outside of your organization and leverage the information and expertise of leaders in the field who have been generous enough to share their findings and opinions on the internet.  For one thing, it's going to give you some much needed distance and take you out of the never-ending feedback loop of fear and doom, which in and of itself is damaging to your mental well-being.

There's just something about reading someone else's perspective that echoes your own value system that heals you.  You can gain some distance and say to yourself, "Oh thank God, I'm not crazy. At least not about this." 

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Your thoughts become clearer.

You feel like you can breath.

You feel validated.

You get just enough distance from your own emotions to engage your critical thinking skills and start problem solving. Which is what needs to happen if you're going to continue to advocate for the privacy of your patient population and protect your job.

So, take some time and step outside of your immediate surroundings (your "workplace bubble" if you will) and realize that there are a lot of well-respected people in the field who feel the same way that you do. For example, there's an awesome White Paper and webinar by KiwiTek COO, Bill Wagner which details exactly why off-shoring medical records may not actually be saving your organization money. Or you can connect with US workforce advocates like Coders Direct, which is run by managing partners Mark Sluyter and Rich Simon (who also happen to be friends of mine, these guys are the best!)  Mark and Rich have been long-time advocates of medical records being processed domestically and are currently undertaking legislative efforts on behalf of a US-based workforce.

It doesn't matter if another advocate's mission statement doesn't mirror your own.  Some people advocate for US employees, some people are passionate about patient privacy, others work towards preserving fiscal health of an organization.  These differences are microscopic and they don't matter because, at the end of the day, we all believe in the one fundamental ideal: Electronic Medical Records should not be leaving this country. Period.