Part 2 of 5 in our Four Core Principles series. Click here to see the whole series together.
Proactive Awareness

“[HIPAA covered entities] Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of [clients’] information; Protect against reasonably anticipated, impermissible uses or disclosures; and Ensure compliance by their workforce.”

(HHS.gov HIPAA Help Website, Summary of the Security Rule: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/srsummary.html)

Whether or not you qualify as a HIPAA covered entity, the above quote expresses an idea that is echoed in ethics codes and state laws around the US. It’s also a good idea, in my opinion: we as the professionals are responsible for keeping on top of how our tools work and how their use could harm (or help!) our clients.

This seems a big load to bear, and indeed it can be. The coming of the digital age hasn’t necessarily made things easier for mental health clinicians. The world is becoming one of information transparency, which makes it harder to keep the all-important confidentiality and privacy of our clients.

I don’t think of this principle as a mandate to become an IT expert, however. It simply means that you need to take the time to understand the main working points of your tools before adding them to your practice. This principle is a foundation of Person-Centered Tech’s mission: to provide education that assists people with Proactive Awareness.

Generally, Proactive Awareness means:

  • Knowing the main working points of a tool’s function. How does it handle and move information? Does it encrypt information? Are there times when the information is not encrypted? How is the tool used typically by you and clients? Are there any concerns about the way the tool is typically used that would conflict with the goals of your work?
  • Knowing what the standards of care and ethical rules around this tool are. Is this tool addressed in your profession’s ethics codes or your state’s laws and rules? Do your colleagues already have well-formed ideas of the best ways to use this tool? That last one is sticky — the best use of some tools, such as video chat software like Skype, is hotly debated. In that case, consulting someone you trust may be advisable. You can also ask about it in our LinkedIn group.


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