Record Keeping in the Cloud: Ethical Considerations

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Innovations in the production, storage, protection, and retrieval of digital information occur at breakneck speed. With them can come perceived pressure to transition from paper to electronic records, because doing so may appear to offer benefits for improved patient care. At the forefront of this shift is the popularization of “cloud” computing. While “the cloud” has entered our everyday parlance from Internet-connected televisions to smart phones that track and control our finances, little has been written about how this technology functions and how it may expose practitioners to unforeseen and previously nonexistent risk. In this article we define “the cloud,” discuss risks and benefits of its use, and provide questions for practitioners to ask when considering the appropriateness of maintaining patient records in this manner. Considerations are made in light of current federal legislation and recommendations, professional ethical standards and guidelines established by the American Psychological Association, and ethical decision-making practices.

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