Preventing Medical Errors in Social Media

Course excerpt from Preventing Medical Errors in Behavioral Health

Preventing Medical Errors in Behavioral HealthYour mobile calls and texts can be (and probably are being) snooped and stored, your email can be hacked, your tweets and Facebook posts are available for all the world to see. If you consider bringing your client communications into this realm, what ethical concerns do you need to address? If the concept of privacy is not totally extinct, it is certainly on the endangered list.

All therapists, regardless of age or stage or whether we were trained in this century or another, find ourselves practicing in a digital world. Even in this early part of the 21st century, the list of digital communications applications – mobile devices, email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, cloud computing, electronic medical records, webcams, etc., etc. – is endless and still growing. As our careers progress, the proliferation of such technologies is likely to continue to challenge our capacity to stay current. With the introduction of each innovation, the threats to reasonably error-free practice will continue to multiply.

As is the case with most innovations, there are benefits and there are risks. The benefits are usually very seductive, promising increased speed, efficiency, and convenience. The risks are usually hidden, requiring thoughtful consideration before they show themselves. The point here, within the context of preventing medical errors in behavioral health, is that the use of this technology has become so routine that clinicians might adopt it mindlessly without carefully thinking through the potential consequences in therapy situations. Sometimes we may even make a conscious decision to trade security for convenience. The results can include unanticipated breeches of confidentiality or the transmission of private information to unintended parties, sometimes leading to severe damage to clients.

According to Pope and Vasquez:

“Technology creates new ways for us to connect with our patients. Geographic barriers fall. Relationships take new forms. We may start and end therapy without ever being together in the same room with the patient… But the benefits come with costs, risks, and occasional disasters. Digital technologies take confidential information that was once confined to handwriting in a paper chart kept under lock and key and spread it over electronic networks.”

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Preventing Medical Errors in Behavioral Health is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that satisfies the medical errors requirement of Florida mental health professionals. The course is intended to increase clinicians’ awareness of the many types of errors that can occur within mental health practice, how such errors damage clients, and numerous ways they can be prevented. Its emphasis is on areas within mental health practice that carry the potential for “medical” errors. Examples include improper diagnosis; breaches of privacy and confidentiality; mandatory reporting requirements; managing dangerous clients; boundary violations and sexual misconduct; the informed consent process; and clinical and cultural competency. There are major new sections on psychotherapy in the digital age, including the use of social networking systems, the practice of teletherapy, and the challenges of maintaining and transmitting electronic records. Course #21-03 | 2015 | 28 pages | 14 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is approved by the American Psychological Association (APA) to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Professional Development Resources maintains responsibility for all programs and content. Professional Development Resources is also approved by the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the California Board of Behavioral Sciences; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; and by the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners.