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Information technology and computers have also begun to affect, in ways that are both bad and good, family life, community life, education, freedom, human relationships, democracy, and many other issues. By looking into the broadest sense of the word it can be seen that cyber ethics should actually be understood as a branch of applied ethics, and ethics should be something that is believed in by all that provide medical information, whether via the Internet or in some other way, since providing false or fraudulent information could be damaging and potentially deadly for many people.
This particular branch of ethics analyzes and studies information technology and what type of ethical and social impacts it has. Within recent years this new field has led to countless courses, workshops, articles, journals, and many other ways of expression. With the World Wide Web becoming so popular when it comes to health care information, cyber ethics is also being transformed into what many term 'global information ethics'. Health care information that is presented on the Web is truly global in nature, as anyone that has access to the Internet can get this information and utilize it to make what they feel to be an informed decision about their health care options.
Computers in the health care workplace are one of the things that have definitely attracted research because computers are able to do so much throughout the workplace. They are almost able to replace individuals for some tasks but for others they are a far cry from the efficient humans that are necessary. There are many economic incentives available to work toward replacing human beings with computerized devices. This has been done in some areas for certain things but there are specific issues that human beings have to address and therefore not all human jobs will be eliminated by computers.
Computer crime is very important when dealing with cyber ethics because hackers and viruses seem to be very serious issues for computer users today and hacking into patient information has become a very strong concern where privacy rights are involved. Computer security is becoming a great topic of concern when computer ethics is discussed and much of this does not have anything to do with the physical security of the actual hardware but rather what is termed 'logical security,' which includes privacy, unimpaired service, integrity, consistency, and the control of access to various resources. Privacy is likely the most important issue when it comes to patient records and information, but integrity is by far the most important issue when it comes to the accessing of health care on the Internet.
Probably the most important issue for cyber ethics in this day and age when it comes to health care is privacy. This is not only true of the privacy that is necessary for patient records and sensitive medical information, but also of the information that consumers search for on Web sites and some of the information that they may provide to individuals online that deal with symptoms and other issues that are related to health care. Privacy was one of the earliest topics that actually created public interest, and it still remains the most significant one for many individuals. Even as early as the 1960s the government had huge databases that contained a great deal of information about various private citizens, and medical information is becoming that way now. The government is not storing this information, but many hospitals and HMOs are.
In the 1970s there were computer privacy laws that were passed within the United States and public concern has remained high about computer threatened privacy issues ever since then. Computers can be networked together so easily and so much can be stored on them and retrieved at a glance that sensitive information kept on computers can be relatively dangerous even if it is out of the public domain and out of reach of individuals who are seen as threats. Most people who are serious enough about breaking into a computer are able to do so if they have the technological know-how or if they can find someone who is technologically capable of breaking in, and when they do they can access all types of patient information and sensitive data. When this sort of thing happens individuals not only feel as though their rights have been violated but they are uncertain what types of information have been collected by the breach of privacy. This does not imply that these individuals have anything at all to hide, but only that they value their privacy very strongly.
The concept of privacy has undergone some rethinking because of the computer related issues and for a long time privacy has been seen as having control over personal information. Others have argued that personal information is not really sufficient to protect or establish any kind of privacy and privacy itself will be better defined in terms of restricting access and not restricting control. There are many arguments that have been created about privacy and it is certainly important for employers and others in the health care field to deal with computers and all concerned about having individuals hacking into them or otherwise using unethical behavior to find information.
Globalization is something that is coming quickly to most individuals that deal with computers and health care, and cyber ethics is evolving into a field that is much broader because of this globalization. The Internet and the World Wide Web help to connect people all across the face of the earth and this makes it very difficult to come up with standards of conduct that are found to be truly global and protect the rights of individuals all across the world. Values and ethics will now be debated and transformed in a way that has no limits based on culture, religion, or geographic region.
This is the first time in the history of the world that this has been done and it is quite possible that where social developments are concerned this will be one of the most important ones that takes place in history. It will change the nature of health care even more in the future than it has already been changed by computers and this will cause the individuals that seek this health care information to adjust the way that they search for things and how they provide information to others. The health care consumers of today are already much more actively involved in their health care, and with the growing use of the Web, these same consumers will continue to remain active. The real challenge for those that manage health care information is to make sure that these consumers are being protected and that they are receiving information that they can feel safe and comfortable about using to make informed decisions.
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