Sunday, 20 March 2011

...Tutorial One: Information Technology and Ethical Issues...

Welcome to my blog. This will contain the current topics of discussion that makes up this years Participation in Occupation 1 course. This first post is based around Information Technology and Ethical Issues and what I have learned and understand of this.
Firstly, what is information technology?
Information technology or IT can be defined as the branch of engineering that deals with the use of computers and telecommunications to retrieve, store and transmit information (1, “Information technology,” n.d.).
My understanding of IT is very limited and based on the definition I have found I would consider information technology to be presented in various different forms. Not just that of computers but also other devices such as cell phones and digital cameras also the likes of scanners and printers as they are used in ways to communicate. They retrieve information, store it, even if it may only be a short period of time, and then further transmits it to be used elsewhere.
The use of information technology can be seen through out society. In people’s homes, businesses, schools and universities as well as many other areas of society. It has become very common place in the society that we live in today. In my own life the use of electronic devices is essential. For example currently studying it is essential to have access to the internet in order to be able to complete and access what is required of me.
Outside of the essentials I use technology as it has become affordable and ‘easier’ for example the use of my digital camera. In one year alone I took over 4000 pictures to document my life at the time, which prior to having access to a digital camera I may have taken 100 pictures in a year to retain the most important events of that year. I’ve also noticed that with the increase in technology that is available I am using more of it. For example the technologies that I would competently use on a daily basis would include computers, the internet, my cell phone (mainly for texting), digital camera, MP3 player as well as the T.V. primarily using SKY which to me is a form of information technology.
The use of IT is being used in many different fields of Occupational Therapy (OT). It is being adapted to help in the therapy of various different individuals for a variety of different reasons. OT’s focus on occupation’s that are meaningful in the people’s lives that they are providing therapy for and with the increase of importance IT has on society it is becoming key to incorporate this into therapy. Another reason OT’s are incorporating IT into their therapy is that with advances that are being made with technology it is meaning a lot more can be achieved with an OT’s influence when using technology. This can be seen in the development of wheelchairs and other assistive equipment such as talking boards which may enable someone without certain skills such as propelling a manual wheelchair to therefore use an electronic one. Or someone that is non verbal to then be able to communicate through the use of an adapted computer that can ‘talk’ for them.
There will more than likely always be concerns around the use of IT in therapy, as it could be seen that the individual may become dependant on the technology being used, there is also the concern that the technology could fail. There are also many ethical issues that surround the use of IT as it is important to maintain the individual’s privacy as well as being aware to obtain informed consent for anything that could potentially be viewed by an outside party. The majority of these concerns will be addressed before they become an issue however if they do become an issue before they can be addressed it will be a concern that OT’s will have to be prepared to deal with.
As previously stated there are a number of ways technology is already being used in occupational therapy practice. It is likely that with the development of technology this will also occur with the development with OT practice. This can already be seen through the use of social networking sites and other online chat rooms where people with similar situations are able to connect in a simple and accessible way. This is seen through the use of Facebook for the WINTEC class of 2010 OT students, in a sense it is a means of supervision between peers, which is a key concept in practicing as an OT. There are also many other uses for technology in OT practice. In this Youtube clip the use of technology is explained to be used in an exercise of cooking. There are also many other uses of technology to assist people in doing typical functioning tasks.

Training to be an OT in the current times where the use of technology is prevalent it is important that we are trained in the use of a variety of technologies as we are more than likely to encounter a number of these. We’ll also have the ability to determine the use of new technologies in the people’s lives we are helping. Our understanding of technology will ultimately determine the effectiveness of our therapy through the use of modern technology. It is also important to understand it as there are negative aspects of technology that we as therapists need to be aware of in our utilisation of it in our practice.
As briefly described previously there are ethical issues that may arise from using technology in OT practice. The primary of these is patient confidentiality, this is a concern as it is seen that the use of technology, for example computer programmed client folders, are not as secure as the prior method of hardcopy format kept in secure areas. This is evident in the increase in intelligence regarding computers and their programmes and the amount of people that are able to hack computers and their systems, resulting in client data being at risk of breached confidentiality. There are also the ethical concerns around informed consent as identified previously, primarily in concern to the use of digital imagery that could be used to identify the person receiving therapy.
There are a few more concepts to discuss while discussing IT and ethical concerns with using this in OT practice.
Intellectual property; defined by Ministry of Economic Development Home (2010) as “an umbrella term used for human innovations and creativity that are capable of being protected under national law and international treaties”.
This is applicable to technology as it determines who owns it. For example if a therapist takes a digital image of a client it is then under their ownership. This is important to remember when using such technologies as this could affect ethical concerns.
Social justice has been defined by Ellis-Christensen, T. (2011) as:
In essence social justice is concerned with equal justice, not just in the courts, but in all aspects of society. This concept demands that people have equal rights and opportunities; everyone, from the poorest person on the margins of society to the wealthiest deserves an even playing field. (2)
Social justice refers to the fairness of an aspect of society. Applying this to technology and its use in OT practice is therefore obvious that social justice is a factor to consider. Is it a viable means of treatment? Is it accessible to everyone? What are the limitations of using technology with people we are treating? All of these questions and many more are constantly asked, often to try to eliminate social justice. It is already clear that since the development of such devices as laptops and MP3 players they have become more accessible to the larger population. This is primarily seen through the lowered price of these items, being one of the ways that these forms of technology are no longer a form of social justice.
Furthermore there are continuing issues around the social justice of technology such as the accessibility of it; this can be seen through technology such as the internet and accessing it. The location of an individual is what determines their ability to access such technology, for example the more rural someone lives the higher chance it is that they will be unable to access the internet.
Social justice will be a constant issue that occupational therapists will be overcoming and with the current progress of technology it is more than likely that social justice will be eliminated in this area.
Finally there is the concept of informed consent and its importance in OT practice and the use of technology. Health point website explains informed consent as the process an individual undertakes before participating in any procedure conducted by a medical practitioner. It involves the health practitioner fully and clearly explaining what the individual is consenting to as well as answering any of the questions the individual may have. Informed consent will often be recorded in the form of a consent form that the individual signs after being fully informed (Health Point, 2011).  
As previously explained one of the occasions that an OT will need to use informed consent is when using digital imaging such as photos or film to document their client. For example the OT may take photos of the individuals’ posture to monitor the progress of an intervention put in place; however they will need to have the client’s consent to do so as it is part of their treatment being administered to them.
This is the end of my first blog post. It was a very long process to gather all the information required but also interesting thinking about everything that is involved in using technology in OT practice.


Ellis-Christensen, T. (2011). What is social justice? Retrieved March 20, 2011, from
Health Point. (2011). Informed consent. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from,
Information technology, IT. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2011, from 
Ministry of Economic Development Home. (2010, September 7). What is intellectual property? Retrieved from
Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. (2008, June 27). WWRC occupational therapy services [Video file]. Retrieved from


  1. Hi Nancy. A good start to your blog, and enjoyable reading. IP: if a therapist takes a digital image of a client "it is then under their ownership." Therapist, organisation or the client ownership? Hilary:)

  2. Yo Nancy-Poo.... your blog is looking very good and long... you should leave a commen on my blog too :)

  3. Hey Anna-Maree!
    So did you know comment has a T at the end! Interesting huh!!! :)

  4. Thanks Hilary for your comment. I believe the ownership of the image would be of the organisation that the therapist is working for as it would be there camera, and there are privacy and confidentiality concerns to consider if it was the therapists camera used to capture the digital image.