The Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) presently lacks an electronic record system and interns and staff have no alternative but to write all progress information and notes for clients manually. The problem became more evident at a time when the facility asked its workers to turn to remote working in an attempt to curb further spread of a COVID-19 case reported within the facility. While working remotely, interns could utilize google voice or *67 followed by dialing the client’s number when conversing on the phone. A free package of doxy was utilized if a client preferred a video engagement. When staff and interns had to create a progress note, they were required to type them and keep them on their personal computers (PCs). However, it is apparent from this form of operation that clients could have the fear that their data is not adequately protected and could be violated. Every client should feel that their data is secure with the agency not violating privacy by having clients’ progress notes on PCs.
The lack of an electronic system to store and facilitate the retrieval of clients’ data is an ethical concern as opposed to an everyday organizational problem because it violates the ethical principles guiding social workers. A staff or intern who mismanages a client’s data could be breaking the principle of confidentiality, which is a vital ethical standard that directs social practice (Sobocan et al., 2018). It is a vital ethical and legal obligation that all social workers are supposed to follow. The principle stipulates that matters pertaining to clients should not be revealed to others at any cost. Therefore, failing to take adequate measures to safeguard client’s data is an ethical issue and not an ordinary business problem. The key question in this case is how the absence of the electronic system would ethically impact on key stakeholders.
A critical examination of the case further reveals that it could have ethical repercussions unlike other problems that occur at the facility dealing with social work. The client in this case is confident that the facility handles the data in the most suitable and secure manner. However, that is not the case because the case reveals that interns and staff keep clients’ crucial progress notes on their PC’s without any backup. Such information could be lost in case of a hard drive crash, or in case one loses his or her computer. The management allows this to happen with the full knowledge that the practice could have far-reaching ethical implications should one or more of the clients raise complaints regarding how the organization handles clients’ data.
Consequently, it is necessary to consult various groups and individuals that could facilitate the ongoing attempts to foster change. The fundamental groups to engage in this case is staff and interns to find out how the current operational technique impact on their services. Consulting staff and interns will provide insight into what needs to change to enact safer and secure ways of handling clients’ data. The other group that will contribute significantly in this case are the organizational leaders who will hasten the plan that is already in place to adopt an electronic system. It would also be essential to consult key clients to find their views on how they would want their data to be handled. More fundamentally, it is important to consult technological experts who will come up with an effective solution to the current ethical concern to improve how the organizational handles clients’ data. An ethical question would be whether excluding these stakeholders could have far-reaching implications on the concerned parties.
It is imperative to consult various parties because the ethical matter impacts significantly on the stakeholders’ values, emotions, beliefs, and reactions. For instance, the staff, interns and organizational leaders believe that the facility will develop a bad reputation for failing to come up with an effective way for handling clients’ data. Moreover, staff, interns, and leaders may develop the fear that the facility could become a victim of cybercrime that is increasingly becoming rampant, especially among institutions that do not enact effective measures to safeguard their data. Clients, on their part, are likely to become less confident in the way the organization handles their data if it does not take steps to improve data handling. Thus, the matter could evoke emotional reactions from various parties relating with the firm in one way or the other.
Each of the stakeholders have underlying needs, goals, and interests regarding the issue at hand. A chief goal of the clients would be to relate with an organization that takes effective measures to safeguard their information rather than dealing with an institution that lacks the capacity to uphold confidentiality. The organizational leaders, on their part, would want to lead an organization that upholds the principle of confidentiality. The leaders on their part aims at building trust and confidence with its clients because this would determine the firm’s reputation as well as revenue generation. The chief goal of staff and interns would be to serve in an institution that has developed systems that improve how they gather, store, and retrieve clients’ information. Overall, all stakeholders aspire to have an organization that has developed structures for handling clients’ information.
All concerned parties need to work towards implementing the recommended plan because other than having ethical concerns, the deficiency could have legal implications as well. Social firms while conducting their activities must abide by the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is an international law that defines how organizations ought to uphold the privacy and confidentiality of their clients (Dayalu & Punnagai, 2019). Organizations all over the globe are obliged to abide by the directives of the GDPR policy so long as it gathers data of people from the European Union (Dayalu & Punnagai, 2019). The international framework calls for transparency, lawfulness, and accuracy in the handling of clients’ data. Furthermore, the policy calls for accountability and purpose limitation when handling clients’ data. Firms and individual practitioners are liable for punishment for breaching any of the stipulated guidelines.
The group needs to consider the ethical and legal effects associated with the problem as having the capacity to cause adverse effects, and prioritize the area that needs more attention to enact effective mitigating measures. The team working on the matter should identify an issue that requires urgent attention as one that would have immediate effects on the organizations. In this case, it is essential to address the ethical concerns as the most urgent matter because this directly impacts on all stakeholders. Addressing the ethical concern and coming up with effective remedies will present a platform to handle the legal concerns more effectively.
An analysis of the matter using ethical theories suggest that the lack of an electronic system to handle client data and allowing staff and interns to keep personal data are unethical. For instance, examining the case based on utilitarianism suggests that the current practice is unethical and inappropriate. The utilitarian ethical theory implies that an action is ethical is it gives a result that benefits most of the people (Barsky, 2010). However, that is not the case in this scenario where the way of handling data could instill fear and discomfort among clients should they become aware that the facility lacks effective mechanisms to maintain data safely. Furthermore, looking at the matter based on the argument in deontology reveals that it is unethical. The theory urges individuals to play a role that would make their action to appear ethical towards others (Barsky, 2010). Therefore, the organizational leaders in this case act unethically by having failed to install a more effective system early enough. Fortunately, the team now understands the significance of having an electronic system and is working very fast to enact the change. Also important in this case is the NASW Code of Ethics that forbids all forms of misconduct of social workers, which urges all workers to always act ethically (NASW, 2022). The ethical framework are essential and any violation could result in unpleasant outcomes. The ethical question in this case is whether it is appropriate to act contrary to these theories with the knowledge of their existence and purpose.
The most suitable remedy in this case is to install an Electronic Records Management (ERM) system at the facility. An ERM system works as an all-inclusive system that organizations can utilize to monitor their client’s data and administrative information (Demirtel & Bayram, 2014). The system is often a computer program that stores a file of each single element or a client’s care records. Social workers can rely on the ERM system to store valuable information such as current queries, billing information, past dealings, among other information, and personal data such as name, age, sex, and ethnicity (Demirtel & Bayram, 2014). It is encouraging that the organizational leaders already have plans to adopt an electronic system and it is expected the change will transform organizational practices as well. Proper implementation of the system will enable workers to access exact, restructured, and sharable information, as well as offer improved, quality, and safer transactions. Moreover, installing the feature will advance client privacy and security, and also escalate competence and output (Demirtel & Bayram, 2014). Therefore, the team should not relent in its current initiative to install an electronic system.
However, effective implementation of the electronic system would require the concerned parties to embrace an equally effective monitoring approach to ensure that the program achieves its goals. An effective assessment technique is to identify certain performance metrics and find out if the facility achieves them after the implementation of the electronic system. A thinkable metric in this case would be to evaluate the simplicity or hardship of retrieving and recovering client data (Demirtel & Bayram, 2014). Increased retrieval would mean that the ERM system has beneficial effects on the way the staff and interns handle fundamental data. Another metric that would show the installation is having positive effects is increased client satisfaction. Otherwise, increased dissatisfaction would imply that more need to happen to improve the data handling process.
Nonetheless, the team spearheading the implementation of an electronic system should consider some of the potential constraints that could derail the process. A possible challenge would be to get enough funds to support the initiative. The group has plans to reach out to various financers but this is not a guarantee that the group will access the needed money to facilitate the installation. Another possible challenge is that not all workers will be willing to accept change with resistance expected from certain members. Hence, it would be necessary to embrace a suitable change model that would steer the process successfully. A suitable framework in this case is Lewin’s change management model, which requires users to follow three major steps – unfreeze, change, and refreeze (Hussain et al., 2016). The unfreezing phase is where members learn about the need for transformation, while the change phase is where the actual change happens (Hussain et al., 2016). The refreeze phase offers an opportunity to emphasize on the adopted change. Overcoming the potential challenges is the only way to be guaranteed that change will occur.
It would be easier to enact the new way of handling data and dealing with emerging issues by training workers on how to use the system. The training should focus on key aspects of ERM systems, including how to achieve efficient client scheduling as well as how to achieve effective duty workflows. Moreover, the training should offer tips and skills on how to access the system from other devices, as well as deliver valued tips on how to address some of the automated problems that could affect the use of the ERM system (Demirtel & Bayram, 2014). However, it would be difficult to achieve the targeted goals without adequate training.
The study addresses the need to identify and deal with ethical issues that could affect how social organizations conduct their operations and relate with clients. Specifically, the analysis focuses on the need to install an effective system to handle clients’ data to avoid causing security concerns. Analyzing the ethical dilemma has influenced my professional thinking and development because I now know that inadequate ways of handling clients’ information could have both legal and ethical repercussions. I would rely on the information I gain from this case to encourage members in all stations where I serve to ensure that the system for handling data is effective enough and one that instills confidence to all clients.
Barsky, A. (2010). Ethics and values in social work: An integrated approach for a comprehensive curriculum. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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