Everything I need to know about breach exposure, I learned from breast cancer

the importance of the security of patient medical records

Breast cancer dragged me back into its ugly world this week. In a positive moment, I had the honor of receiving the BRAVE Day proclamation from Vancouver, WA Mayor, Tim Levitt and the Vancouver City Council on Monday; BRAVE Day (March 21), is a day dedicated to recognizing a women’s right to reconstruction and support after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. A little-known law passed in 1998 and given very little press.

As I write this, I have recommended my superstar breast cancer team, Dr. Toni Storm-Dickerson and Dr. Allen Gabriel and their amazing staff, to two of my friends who recently received breast cancer diagnosis. It was a reminder that, although I have been cancer free for four years, breast cancer never leaves you alone.

Cancer doesn’t just change your life, it explodes it.

After a mastectomy you are left with a road map of scars that reflect the fear and despair a cancer diagnosis causes you. Each day, you step out of the shower and look into the mirror, gazing back at you is someone you don’t recognize.

You may scoff at plastic surgery, but reconstruction restores more than the physical characteristics that make us female…it is a stepping stone to restoration of the mental scars caused by having breast cancer—those scars cut much deeper than the physical ones.

You are exposed in a way you never imagined.

You are flayed out in a room with a revolving door of strangers coming in. You are poked, prodded, stuck, cut, stitched, cut, stitched again, and experienced what feels like a bloodletting, scanned, x-rayed and examined, until it feels like there is no one at the medical center that hasn’t seen some part of you.

Then, your health record is breached and just when you think you can’t get any more exposed, your information is really out there.

The patient experience requires automation and engagement, ease of use and digital technology, but at what cost? What corners did you cut today to make things “easier” for your patients?

You give patients a gown to cover up during an exam, offering a token of privacy, but you might as well send your patients streaking through the courtyard, if you’re going to expose them to a breach. Streaking would be less costly!

The number of large scale healthcare breaches is still increasing – the number is going in the wrong direction! Clearly, the healthcare community is missing some factoids. Education doesn’t end after your MD, MA, NPA, CAN, RN…this is a different kind of learning and equally as important as medical training.

Don’t overexpose an already exposed, and possibly humiliated, patient. Take the time to train, spend the money on quality compliance and security training.

Learn about safe social media practices before you grab your devices and request a patient record, write a prescription, update your calendar, etc. Protect your patients, not only while they are in your office, but after they leave.

“First do no harm.”