MMI 407 - Legal, Ethical and Social Issues

Course Description:

This course presented the legal and regulatory requirements applicable to healthcare data and information management systems, and stimulated critical thinking around selected topics related to the ethical and social impacts of information technology as they interface with the current healthcare regulatory environment. Some topics included HIPAA, medical ethics, fraud & abuse, data privacy and confidentiality, antitrust law, intellectual property issues, The Joint Commission, disclosure, transparency and accountability, compliance programs, including clinical research data compliance, healthcare data privacy and security regulations, and conflicts of interest.
Professor: Karin J. Lindgren, JD
Term: Fall 2010
Grade: A
Text: No required text, only assigned journal articles.

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify Protected Health Information (PHI) and understand the range of permissible uses and disclosures allowed by HIPAA
  • Develop ability to analyze, criticize and construct rigorous policy-oriented arguments for the appropriate handling of healthcare data
  • Explain basic government regulations and legal principles applicable to healthcare data management, i.e. how to keep your CIO out of jail
  • Summarize The Joint Commission’s accreditation interest in medical informatics and data handling
  • Identify the key components of an effective compliance program, including a demonstration of regulatory informatics
  • Demonstrate critical thinking and thought leadership regarding future legal and ethical regulation of medical informatics in the U.S. social landscape.
  • Basic facility with legal terminology

What I Learned:

Having explored a career in law prior to going into Information Technology, I was interested in the subject matter. This was one of those classes, that as you are taking and look back, you sit back and say "Wow!” It was one of those eye-opening experiences that engages you and really broadens your perspective on the subject. It really helped to have a professor like Karin Lindgren who is amazingly passionate about Law and its application to the field of Medical Informatics. The expectations for the class were rigorous and demanding with a lot of writing. The class turned out to be one of my favorites, as did the instructor.

One of the most valuable aspects of the class was the interactive thinking we did together as a class. Professor Lindgren forced us to critically think and examine issues, and then to internalize the subject matter. This was not a class one wanted to be unprepared for. Each week had reading assignments, and at the end of every class, we would dive into the critical issues.This included openly discussing and challenging other classmate viewpoints. In this way, each of the learning objectives enhanced my own perspectives. Analyzing, critiquing and forming arguments either for or against an issue has really benefited me, as I can more adequately do the same in situations that present themselves in my workplace. I'm surprised actually at how many opportunities have presented themselves since this class but with the drastically changing landscape under healthcare reform, the opportunities are prevalent.

This course instilled within me a deep understanding for the important tenants that make up the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Nearly the entire first half of the class focused on the Protected Health Information (PHI), the Privacy Rule, the Security Rule, unique Identifiers and responsibilities for de-identification, minimum necessary data sets (MDS) and the HITECH Act. All of these dimensions of healthcare center on issues rooted in data privacy and confidentiality, disclosure, transparency and accountability.

Equally import is the time we spent covering patents, copyright, intellectual property (IP) and anti-trust issues. These were especially pertinent on an individual level as these are all considerations that need to be accounted for as we want to protect our own ideas and individual work. It also brings forefront to our minds the type of things we need to think about to be responsible employees for the employers we work for. We also explored issues around fraud and abuse.

After gaining a background in all these areas, I put put my understanding of class fundamentals to the test through individual research topics where I completed a case study, criticism paper, and wrote a research paper. The research assignment acted as a personal capstone for the course to allow me demonstrate my mastery for the course material. I thoroughly enjoyed the research as I chose a topic related to the industry I was working in. It also challenged me to deeply explore the regulatory framework that created the healthcare insurance industry, and the legal, ethical, and social issues that remain as concerns today.

After working individually, I was assigned to a group, that was given a unique case studies.,My team was tasked with analyzing and articulating all the legal, ethical or social issues that we could find. We also met and presented before other groups, and they critiqued our ability to identify the issues. We offered the same perspective for other groups that presented their topics.Together we were all edified, as we learned from each other.

In summary, the interactive thinking offered the true value from this class, and again much of the learning was fostered by the atmosphere setup by Professor Lindgren. I was intellectually charged and was eager to help identify concerning legal issues as I was ready to spot them from discussions and interactions at work. From this, I personally committed to speak out and help support my executives in addressing these issues head on. Even better, as executive leadership opportunities presented for myself, I would be better equipped to protect my companies interests. This class was vital in helping me understand my role in being a responsible contributor in any organization, and it gave me the confidence to be an asset in this regard.

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