Covenant Health takes ethical approach to recording devices

The use of electronic recording devices, such as nanny cams, in the care setting is a sensitive societal issue—one Covenant Health has put a lot of thought into how to approach. It used its Mission Discernment tool, which is recognized nationally by Accreditation Canada as leading practice, to help staff work through difficult organizational matters.

The discernment recognized potential benefits of cameras, such as keeping families connected, as well as privacy risks and other trust issues.

“It is an issue we recently faced at one of our Lethbridge sites. A family set up a camera in their loved one’s room; it was discovered by a staff member cleaning. We were shocked at first and then disappointed,” admits Tracy Sommerfeld, Senior Director Operations, Rural Seniors' Care. “We felt, why would they do this? Do they have a problem with their loved one's care? Why didn’t they come to us first?"  

This basic recording device was placed in the room of a resident at a Lethbridge care facility. The resident's family said they were happy with their loved one’s care; it was there as a safety measure.

Tracy says the care team approached the family in the spirit of understanding their needs. It turned out the family was recording out of a sense of security. They never even reviewed the recordings; the device was there “just in case.” But the incident highlighted an issue for Tracy and the organization as a whole. 

The mission discernment process involved a literature review and brought together about a dozen people from across the organization to look at a variety of scenarios from many perspectives. The result is a position statement that is now being circulated for feedback and will eventually guide education and policy.

"Every decision we make, be it at the bedside or around our senior leadership table, is values-driven," says Gordon Self, Vice-President of Mission, Ethics and Spirituality. "The question we have to constantly ask ourselves is whether these decisions are aligned with who we say we are as an organization. In humility, that is a question we all have to ask ourselves, and to keep striving in living up to that ideal every day."

Gordon points out that the Mission Discernment tool  is one of the reasons Covenant Health was the only Canadian organization recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as a 2016 World’s Most Ethical Company. 

World's most ethical company

"For us, the honour is more than a designation; it is a willingness to hold ourselves up to public scrutiny, to test our ethical performance and to drive quality improvement. We weren't successful the first year, but through the recommendations we received, we were able to address identified areas of deficiencies and leverage existing strengths, and we remain committed to continuing that growth."

Ethisphere is honouring 131 companies this year from around the world. The companies are evaluated in five areas of ethical performance: Corporate Governance; Compliance & Ethics Program; Culture of Ethics; Corporate Citizenship; and Leadership, Innovation & Reputation.

 “World’s Most Ethical Companies” and “Ethisphere” names and marks are registered trademarks of Ethisphere LLC.

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