"Would you be okay with me writing about you someday, sir?"
"May I have your permission to share parts of this experience with others, ma'am?"
This is essentially what I ask my patients when they touch me during our interactions. Even the most difficult ones. . . .I don't shy away from that simple question. I tell them, "I write a blog about my experiences with patients who touch me and teach me. I always change all the details of who you are, unless you agree otherwise. Even if you do, I still change things quite a bit. Would you be okay with me writing about my experience taking care of you?"
And fortunately, it goes something like this, "Write about me? I'd be honored, doctor." I take that back--first, they ask, "What is a blog?" After I clarify what it is, that it won't be anything horrible, and that the goal is to one, honor the patient and two, teach others. . . .they agree. . .even the most challenging patients. . . they wholeheartedly agree.
There are 18 unique identifiers recommended to deidentify patients for cases/stories by HIPAA (essentially what governs patient privacy.) If you don't ask a patient for permission, you must be sure to steer clear of all 18 identifiers. Most are straight forward. . . name, specific dates/birthdates, medical record numbers, etc. Technically, I avoid 17 of the 18 identifiers. The one exception? I write about my experiences at Grady Hospital, which is technically a geographical identifier. For this reason, I ask the patients if I can write about my experience caring for them someday. If for some reason I don't get the opportunity to ask (which is rare) I significantly change several details, and even elements of the story to protect anonymity. Fortunately for me, folks seem to like the idea of being quasi-immortalized on a (what the hell is a) blog. And again, I have never, ever written about a single soul who said "no. " (And never will.) And yes. I do ask everyone.
Aaaaaaah. (Me stretching my arms here.)
So now that we've addressed that elephant in the room. . . . .thanks for reading. . . . . .'preciate ya!