Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Impact of Smartphones and Social Media in Healthcare
Technology currently can have such a huge impact on the privacy of our patients and how we provide patient care in the healthcare industry. Although, the advances in technology can be very cost effective and improve patient outcomes, there are still some potential pressing issues. It is not just the medical equipment we use but includes the use of electronics like smartphones as well. The use of smartphones enables us to effectively and efficiently communicate and care for our patients. It also, enables the use of applications such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, etc. which can negatively affect the care we provide to our patients if not used appropriately. In this scenario I am a nurse who violates my patient’s privacy and confidentiality rights using technology. Little did I know the forthcoming chain of events that will take place due to my actions.
We Can, But Dare We?
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA was established in 1966. It is a set of regulations that ensures the protection rights of patient privacy and their health information (Kornusky & Caple, 2018). All healthcare professionals are obligated to abide by this policy to avoid disciplinary action and to safeguard patient information. In this scenario I am a nurse working in the emergency department on a Friday night. On top of being super busy, my best friend keeps texting me about a concert I am supposed to be at. She is going on and on about how much fun she is having, and I cannot help but be jealous she is there without me. Things are finally slowing down and just when I thought I could catch a break the medics radio goes off. There is an incoming motor vehicle accident victim that will be here in the next five minutes. The EMS arrives and instantly starts filling me in on the patient. The patient is a 28-year-old male who is unconscious. As I began my assessment of the patient, I could not believe my eyes. Could this be? Oh my gosh, it is! The lead singer of the band from the concert my best friend has been bragging about all night is in my ED! I instantly texted my best friend telling her this amazing news. She would not believe me, so I just snapped a few pictures to prove it. I also took a couple pictures of his address, phone number, electronic medical record for myself. Knowing that I was completely violating HIPAA and his privacy I just could not help myself. But hey he’s famous right? It’s no big deal.
Scenario Ending and Recommendations
The next morning, I woke up to a text from a fellow co-worker saying that there is some huge investigation being conducted due to a HIPAA violation. The word is that legal action is being taken out against the hospital because of some photos being sold to Gossip Gazette. By this this time my heart has literally dropped to the floor. Was it my best friend who sent those photos? I needed to call her immediately. I reached for my phone and it was nowhere in sight. I pulled out my laptop and clicked onto the “Find My iPhone” application. I tracked my phone to my hospital’s human resources department. Oh no! They most definitely know it was me. I cannot believe what I have done.
I started researching information about HIPAA using my laptop. I found that according to the privacy rule under HIPAA, it mandates national standards that state you must safeguard an individual’s protected health information and avoid the use of disclosure unless authorized by the patient. As a nurse I failed to follow these standards when I took pictures of my patient without his permission. Not only did I do that, but I snapped some photos of his protected health information. A major goal of the privacy rule is to secure the privacy of an individual’s protected health information when being handled electronically, verbally, or written. When someone violates HIPAA, it is referred to as a breach. A breach is defined as an unauthorized use or disclosure under the Privacy Rule that interferes with the security or privacy of protected health information. (HIPAA for Professionals, 2017).
What I should have done in this situation has treated him like any other patient. Although he was famous his rights of privacy and HIPAA still applied to him. According to Provision 1 in Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements (2015) “The nurse practices with compassion and respect for inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes of every person.”
Stated in the Code of Ethics for Nurses you must “consider all the information given or obtained during the care process as the professional secrets, and do not reveal them without client / patient’s permission except in legally permissible cases” (Zahedi et al., 2013). Without further ado nurses must follow these guidelines established by the code of ethics to ensure they are providing high quality ethical care to all their patients. I should have been more focused on providing patient care then trying to prove something to a friend. One of the main foundations of establishing a nurse patient nurse relationship is developing trust through respect for privacy and maintaining that patient confidentiality. I failed to do both in this case.
Signing a consent form is one the first things patients do upon arrival. A patient consent form allows the gathering of information to share with members of the healthcare team for the purpose of care management and coordination. Typically, these consists of a written statement implying that the agency will only disclose information unless beneficial to the patients’ health. (OCR, 2015) Since I completely disregarded this fact, I acted in an unprofessional manner by assuming he would be okay with me sharing information about him to someone who was not even on his healthcare team.
Advantages vs. Disadvantages
The use of smartphones and social media can be very resourceful in the healthcare profession. Smartphones improve patient care by offering advanced technological features that help assist and simplify many important tasks. Medical apps on smartphones provide many benefits for healthcare professionals. They increase access to point-of-care tools, which has been shown to improve clinical decision-making and develop better patient outcomes. “They can assist with answering clinical practice and other questions at the point of care exist, such as: drug reference guides, medical calculators, clinical guidelines and other decision support aids, textbooks, and literature search portals (Mobile Apps and Devices for Healthcare Professionals, 2104). Social media can be used in many ways. It can be used as a tool to help enhance patient education, promote health behaviors, and is good source for networking.
This assignment has showed me the importance of making sure all employees know the importance of following HIPAA policies. Social media and the use of cellphones is one of many ways that makes violating HIPAA easy. I find myself in a position where I must really think before I say or post something, so I don’t violate HIPAA. As members of a health care profession, it is vital to remain consciously aware of patient’s privacy and confidentiality rights. Also, being aware of the repercussions and consequences that come with violating HIPAA. Education and abiding by policies are key to avoid situations like this.
- Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements. (2015). Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association.
- HHS Office of the Secretary,Office for Civil Rights, & OCR. (2017). HIPAA for Professionals. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/index.html
- Kornusky, J. R. M., & Caple, C. R. B. M. (2018). Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Nursing Practice. CINAHL Nursing Guide. Retrieved from https://chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nup&AN=T904678&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Mobile Devices and Apps for HealthCare Professionals. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4029126/
- OCR. (2015). 264-What is the difference between consent and authorization under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/264/what-is-the-difference-between-consent-and-authorization/index.html
- Ventola, Lee, C (2014, July) Social Media and Healthcare Professionals; Benefits, Risks, and Best Practices, 39(7) 491-499) Pharmacy & Therapeutics
- Zahedi, F., Sanjari, M., Aala, M., Peymani, M., Aramesh, K., Parsapour, A., Maddah, S. B., Cheraghi, M., Mirzabeigi, G., Larijani, B., … Dastgerdi, M. V. (2013). The code of ethics for nurses. Iranian journal of public health, 42(Supple1), 1-8.