Data Protection In Nursing Informatics; Balancing Privacy Aspects And Shared Use

Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Medical Informatics book series (LNMED, volume 41)


During the last two decades use of computer systems in health care has increased rapidly. The reasons are:
  1. 1.

    quality and efficiency improvement

  2. 2.

    lowering costs

  3. 3.

    enhancing care processes

  4. 4.

    easy use of data stored in computers.


This paper describes the tension between the privacy aspects and shared use of data. Especially in nursing, we have to balance these two aspects. Within some years bedside terminals will be general tools in nursing. The necessity of structuring data before storing it in a data bank makes it easier to handle data and to gain information at a time and place where needed. On the other hand, access to structured data gives free way for unauthorised use and misuse if we do not give attention to data protection and privacy.

In nursing we are obliged to handle patient data carefully and to give serious attention to privacy aspects. More and more nurses will be asked to decide when nursing data has to be stored in data banks and what use is allowed to which professional. The goal of this paper is not only to stimulate the discussion between informaticians and nurses about directions to handle such questions but also to point out such possibilities. Levels of data protection built into nursing systems might serve as barriers. If possible, the patient should be informed about patient registration rules and the data which will be stored in the data bank. Nurses always should be aware of data with a strictly confidential character and with respect to the private life of an individual. Such data should perhaps not be stored in a computer data bank. In a matrix, a hierarchical structure will be given. The guideline to the professional role of the user in relation to data access and the possibility of computer systems to give selective access to data.

Copying of data will be discussed. Especially in the area of personal computers, data protection might be handled with great care as copying data from floppies is an easy way to lose control. This cannot be tolerated. A proposal for a set of nursing principles in data protection will be given and classes of nursing roles will be defined. An organisational structure will be given to handle rules, conditions and security of information related to patients.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1991

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