My blog persona and patient confidentiality
Thank you to everyone so far who has been reading my blog and leaving comments! I am humbled by the notion that some people actually find what I have to say worth reading. It's not great literature--but hey, one of the reasons why I started to blog is that I figured it would improve my writing.
One issue I am struggling with is that I want to share stories about things that happen in the hospital, but I want to respect patient confidentiality even more. Because I am completely open about who I am in the real world,meeting both of these goals seems near impossible.
I can't really write about specific patient encounters as they happen, because that would make patients readily identifiable. For example, how many patients really come through the Northwestern emergency room with, say, a long QT-interval resulting in Torsade de Pointes (a specific, whimsically named type of arrhythmia)? I can tell you not many. (By the way, if you have, I assure you it is complete coincidence!)
If such a patient did come through the ER, and I blogged about it that day, he or she would be readily identifiable. Maybe if I changed things around enough, the only person who would know would be the patient himself. But I still think that person would feel that their confidentiality was breached-- if not by the letter of the law, then certainly by the spirit. If a patient of mine ever figured out that I was blogging specifically about him or her, I would feel terrible. I strongly feel that a patient's medical story is their business alone, and it is up to them to choose whom to share it with.
But at the same time, I think specific encounters with real people breathe life into stories. These are stories that involve some of the most fundamental experiences a person can have, experiences that transcend culture, experiences that transcend time itself. A family deciding to let a loved one go is something that can be appreciated here or in China. It can be appreciated now, a thousand years ago, or a thousand years from now. I really think these stories with patients are worth writing.
Trouble is, I haven't figured out how. Any suggestions?