Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chilling Effects: To Blog, or Not, Under the Watchful Eyes of Defense Attorneys for the Hospital Where My Mother Was Injured

On the travails of being a citizen journalist and medical watchdog:

I must admit I almost gave up blogging recently.

First, the death of my mother June 6, 2011 from an EHR-related medication continuity error has strained me severely. I took care of her at home since Sept. 2010 in a hospital bed rented for the living room, having promised her (and my father before he passed in 2000) that I would never put her in a nursing home. I kept my promise, but at great psychical cost. It was seriously distressing to watch her suffer and decline, cry, call out for her own long-deceased parents, and to have to administer hospice-supplied medications such as large doses of benzodiazepines, haldol (a major tranquilizer), and morphine in her final weeks to ensure she was as comfortable as possible.

The effects of this experience alone almost silenced my writing.

Second, I've noted the hospital's retained defense attorneys monitoring my blog posts on a daily basis for several months now. They actually claimed in a legal letter to the court to have first found out about my mother's death via this blog (in this forlorn June 7, 2011 post).

They likely hope to dig up some "dirt" or something to spin to help the hospital with its case.

This monitoring might have a chilling effect on the ordinary blogger. However, having once been a preventive medical programs and drug testing manager in a highly unionized transit authority and having been threatened with my life on several occasions doing that work, I've decided I will not let the monitoring hamper my advocacy for safe, effective, properly regulated healthcare IT medical devices. I believe my work saves lives, in line with an oath I took in May 1981.

As a major source of teaching material for my students, who I hope will become a "new generation" of health IT professionals, I also feel compelled to continue my work.

Citizen journalists should not allow themselves to be bullied or intimidated under any circumstances. It's often a thankless job, but someone's got to do it.

I'm sure my mother would agree.

The law firm can monitor all they want, such as today's "hit" by the law firm's "blog sleuth":

Domain Name (Unknown)
ISP AT&T WorldNet Services
Continent : North America
Country : United States (Facts)
State : New Jersey
City : Cherry Hill
Lat/Long : 39.9286, -75.0242 (Map)
Language English (U.S.)
Operating System Macintosh WinNT
Browser Safari 1.3
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1) AppleWebKit/535.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/13.0.782.99 Safari/535.1
Javascript version 1.5
Monitor Resolution : 1280 x 1024
Color Depth : 32 bits
Time of Visit Jul 25 2011 9:45:17 am
Last Page View Jul 25 2011 9:51:07 am
Visit Length 5 minutes 50 seconds
Page Views 4
Referring URL
Search Engine
Search Words heatlh care renewal
Visit Entry Page
Visit Exit Page
Out Click
Time Zone UTC-5:00
Visitor's Time Jul 25 2011 9:45:17 am
Visit Number 910,304

Interestingly, every "hit" on this blog is arrived at via a Google search by the blog sleuth(s). They search Google on the term "health care renewal."

To my knowledge, all modern browsers have the ability to create bookmarks.

This suggests a certain lack of computer savvy on the part of the sleuth(s), which is ironic as they are attempting to defend an EHR-related mishap.

-- SS


Anonymous said...

Checking the IP addresses of the people visiting your blog is fun, isn't it. My blog is regularly visited by a number of drug companies, oddly enough.

Steve Lucas said...

I do not know which is worse, the clumsy attempt at collecting information, or the clumsy attempt at intimidation.

Steve Lucas

InformaticsMD said...

Steve Lucas wrote:

I do not know which is worse, the clumsy attempt at collecting information, or the clumsy attempt at intimidation

To be fair, it's their job to do this - gather "intelligence" - if they are paid to defend a case.

On the other hand, defense of such cases allows hospitals to get increasingly reckless with their computing, leading to such disasters as dead babies, due in one case to a computer apparently deciding -- all by its cybernetic self -- that a crucial x-ray didn't need to be read.

-- SS