Technology & Storage of Files
For further information and clarification please refer to “Standards for Technology and Social Work Practice” published by the National College of Social Workers and College of Social Work Boards.
9.1.1. Social Workers providing services via telephone or other electronic means shall act ethically, ensure personal professional competence, protect clients and uphold the values of the profession.
9.1.2. Social Workers shall be proficient in the technological skills and tools required for the conduct of their practice and shall seek appropriate training and consultation to stay current with emerging technologies relevant to practice.
9.1.3. Social Workers who use technological means to provide services shall make reasonable effort to become and remain knowledgeable about the advantages and drawbacks of professional online relationships, and the ways in which technology-based social work practice can be safely and appropriately conducted.1
9.1.4. Social Workers who use technological means to provide services shall abide by all regulations of their professional practice with the understanding that their practice may be subject to regulation in both the jurisdiction in which the client receives services and the jurisdiction in which the Social Worker provides the services.
9.1.5. Social Workers who use technological means to provide services shall represent themselves to the public with accuracy.2
9.2.1. Social Workers shall maintain one master file of professional interventions and opinions, with due care to the obligations and standards of their employer and relevant regulatory body.
9.2.2. Social Workers shall document information impartially and accurately and with an appreciation that the record may be revealed to clients or disclosed during court proceedings.
9.2.3. Social Workers shall not state a professional opinion unless it can be supported by their own assessment or by the documented assessment of another professional. Where records are shared across professions or agencies, information shall be recorded only to the degree that it addresses clients’ needs and meets the requirements of an employer and professional standards of practice.
9.2.4. Social Workers shall consider clients to be the primary source of information about their personal issues.
9.2.5. While Social Workers may use any form of technology for keeping records, Social Workers shall maintain the confidentiality of the information that is contained in the record in accordance to Federal and Provincial Privacy Legislation.
9.2.6. Social Workers shall ensure that all recorded information is either relevant to the solution of the client’s problems or is needed for agency administration, policy or legislation.
9.2.7. When a couple, family, organization, community or other group is the client, Social Workers shall keep a record that relates to the appropriate constellation (collection) of clients. If a Social Worker has an individual client from within one of these groups, then the Social Worker shall keep a separate record and respect confidentiality in that relationship.
9.2.8. Social Workers shall:
9.3.1. Social Workers shall store records in a way that maintains the confidentiality of information contained within those records.
9.3.2. Social Workers shall transfer or dispose of clients’ records including mechanical or electronic records in a manner that protects clients’ confidentiality and is consistent with legislation and policies governing records.
9.3.3. Social Workers shall be aware of the process by which clients have access to personal records.
9.3.4. Social Workers shall comply with the requirements regarding record retention, storage, preservation and security set out in any applicable privacy and other legislation. Members employed by an organization acquire and maintain a thorough understanding of the organization’s policies with regard to the retention, storage, preservation and security of records. Self-employed Social Workers shall be responsible for complying with privacy legislation establish clear policies relating to record retention, storage, preservation and security.
9.3.5. Social Workers shall ensure that each client record is stored and preserved in a secure location for at least seven years from the date of the last entry or, if the client was less than eighteen years of age at the date of the last entry, at least sevenyears from the day the client became or would have become eighteen. Different periods of storage time may be required by law. Longer periods of storage time may be defined by the policies of a member’s employing organization or by the policies of a self-employed member or a member who is responsible for complying with privacy legislation. Such policies should be developed with a view to the potential future need for the record.years from the day the client became or would have become eighteen. Different periods of storage time may be required by law. Longer periods of storage time may be defined by the policies of a member’s employing organization or by the policies of a self-employed member or a member who is responsible for complying with privacy legislation. Such policies should be developed with a view to the potential future need for the record.
9.3.6. Social Workers shall take necessary steps to protect the confidentiality and security of paper records, faxes, electronic records and other communications.
9.4.1. Social Workers employed by an organization shall acquire and maintain an understanding of policies regarding access to confidential client information. Such policies pertain to access requests by clients and any other parties.
9.4.2. Social Workers shall release information from the record to third parties without the client’s authorization only if disclosure is legally obligated, or if the worker has evidence to conclude that such disclosure is urgent and essential to the prevention of harm and injury to the client or others.
9.4.3. Social Workers shall not release information to a third party if, in the member’s professional judgment, such a release could result in harm to the client.
- Geographical barriers are inherently absent on the internet and so the global perspectives of clients served via technology may be different from the Western model of psychotherapy and service delivery. Due to the social isolation often imposed on persons in vulnerable populations, Social Workers need to take into consideration the potential for exploitation and misuse of electronic methods with these individuals and families. Additionally, culturally competent Social Workers need to consider the strengths and limitations of current electronic modalities, process and practice models, in order to provide services that are applicable and relevant to the need of culturally and geographically diverse clients and members of vulnerable populations.
- The anonymity of electronic communication makes misrepresentation possible for both Social Workers and consumers of social work services. Because of the potential misuse by unqualified individuals, it is essential that information be readily verified in order to ensure consumer protection. Social Workers need to provide their full name, credentials, social work registration information, physical location and professional office telephone numbers. Websites should provide links to all appropriate certification bodies and regulatory boards to facilitate verification.
- It is important to ensure that reference to persons other than the client are excluded from what is released.
- Social Workers ensure that clients have reasonable access to official social work records concerning them. However, if there are compelling professional, ethical, for legal reasons for refusing access, Social Workers advise clients of their right to request a review of the decision through organizational or legal channels, e.g. Freedom of Information Act.