How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?

Would you inform your boss about a chronic illness before its effects are visible?

Interesting question, right? “How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?”

We often criticize others in the health professions for actions we consider inappropriate. Yet, we rarely question our own behavior.

With this in mind, here are excerpts from a recent Sunday NY Times’ ethicist column written by Kwame Anthony Appiah.

What Would YOU Do?

Excerpts of Question (name withheld): 

During my brief tenure, my boss has increased my responsibilities, promoted me, and proposed changing my position to be more in line with my previous employment. In essence, he is slowly transforming my work into the dream job I discussed during my interview. I suspect he has done so to ensure that I remain, not knowing that I am ill.”

“I have yet to tell my boss about my diagnosis. Legally, I suspect I am not obligated to, unless I need to take leave from my job. Yet morally, should I not at least advise my boss, particularly given his mentorship of me? I recognize that some of the potential requirements of my new job — frequent travel, increased responsibilities, extended time away from my instrumental supports — may be unsustainable 12 months from now, if not sooner. However, I am currently able to perform. What is my duty here?”

Excerpts of Response from the Ethicist (Kwame Anthony Appiah):

“As an employee, you are entitled to keep your diagnosis to yourself until it impairs your performance; and as long as you can fulfill the essential functions of your position, your employer must make reasonable accommodations for your emerging disabilities.”

“But as you’re well aware, you have another morally relevant relationship with your boss. This is someone you care about and who cares about you. That personal relationship brings burdens as well as benefits. On the one hand, your personal bond with him gives you the reasonable expectation that he won’t exploit what you tell him to your disadvantage, at least to an extent consistent with his duties as your boss. On the other hand, it also places a special demand on you to speak with him honestly. You may feel that you owe it to him to give him time to plan for your eventual decline and departure. More time, perhaps, than you would if you were dealing with a faceless institution.”

Click the image to read the full Q&A.

How Ethical Are WE Healthwise?
Illustration by Tomi Um.

 

Be Careful Selling YOUR Health Data

Know you privacy rights!

To sell us more goods and services, companies of all types really want a hold of our health date. Some firms will even pay us for data. But should you do this? Is the exchange worthwhile? Our data in trade for a fee.

This practice is the opposite of our goals in a prior post. Getting Your Health Care Provider to Be More Responsive

So, let’s consider these observations by Thorin Klosowski, writing for the NY Times: 

“If you work for a company with employer-sponsored health insurance, there’s a chance you’ve come across wellness programs such as UnitedHealthcare MotionHumana Go365Attain by Aetna, and Vitality (The New York Times offers Vitality to its employees).”

“Each program works similarly, offering some type of discount or financial incentive in exchange for reaching goals, usually verified by requesting health data collected by a phone or fitness tracker. Insurance companies offer these programs to encourage people to begin or maintain healthy habits, like eating well and exercising, thus reducing health care costs. Employers offer them as a way to provide financial rewards you can use toward the cost of insurance or gift cards.”

But, should you sell your health data?

“The health information you share with insurance companies, HMOs, health care providers, or company health plans is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which helps keep your data private. But not all workplace wellness programs are covered by HIPAA.”

“Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, says, ‘The best thing to do is take a close look at the privacy policy for that program. If it is a HIPAA-covered program, they’re going to have a Notice of Privacy Practices.’ Look for phrases like ‘your rights under HIPAA,’ ‘Notice of Privacy Practices,’ or ‘NPP’ in the privacy policy. If you see the term ‘we are HIPAA-compliant, the basic rule of thumb is the program does not fall under HIPAA. ‘”

Click the image to learn more.

Be Careful Selling YOUR Health Data
Image by Yann Bastard.