Review of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

We can, but dare we? Nurses and Social Media

Introduction

In today’s world, the rapid advancement of technology has increased and the use of technology has evolved. I remember growing up as a child when cellphones are owned and held by influential people, adults, and celebrities. Nowadays possession of cellphones is nothing but a necessity making it easy for people to violate other’s rights while using it. Cellphone companies have different sets of technologies embedded in smartphones such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter which makes the dissemination of information take just a second. This research paper entails how technological advancement has played a huge role in healthcare and how social media can pose a huge impact on maintaining patient’s privacy by nurses. Gagnon and Sabus (2015) reported that in 2014 a report from Mayo clinic shows that 1,500 U.S hospitals manage about 6,500 social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Could it be that the misuse of social media apps as mentioned have tampered with patients’ rights or violated them during care? Again, it is important for nurses and individuals who handle information pertaining to patients to be aware of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

HIPAA, Legal and Regulatory Discussion

Despite the imposition of HIPAA some nurses have failed to maintain patient’s privacy and so, their attitude towards the use of technologies controlled them. According to Kornusky and Caple (2018), HIPAA of 1996 has been known to regulate and protect patient’s information in form of electronic or paper so that the identity of patients is kept in a confidential manner. Apart from HIPAA, the Health Information for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act also ensures the privacy and security of patients electronically protected health information. America Nurses Association (ANA) also ensures the privacy and confidentiality of patient’s information. In other words, under HIPAA guidelines, nurses and other healthcare personnel are not allowed to obtain, retain, or transfer information containing patient’s identification in the form of pictures and videos. Even though most hospitals have allowed nurses to use hospital cellphones while at work to interact with other healthcare but it should not be a medium to violate patients’ privacy rights. For instance, in some hospitals, nurses can answer calls directly from their work cellphones from the doctor, patient, or other hospital team members. This is helpful because it could be an effective way of communication when there is an emergency because it is more convenient and it saves time.

Scenario Ending and Recommendation 

For the purpose of this paper, the third scenario will be analyzed and some recommendations will be made. Based on what happened in the scenario everything about the actions of the nurse was wrong and that is the findings of this situation. First, nurses should not text using their personal cellphones while providing patient care. Second, nurses have no right to take and send pictures of an undressed client and his protected health information to a friend without the consent of their patients. Third, nurses supposed not to post patient information such as pictures, names, or any form of identity on Facebook and Instagram. With these reasons, Kornusky and Caple (2018) noted that posting, tweeting, texting as well as giving out of patients protected health information is a violation of HIPAA. The patient’s right was violated because nurses are not supposed to disclose their patients’ health information. It is recommended that nurses should follow the guidelines of the American Nurses Association to protect the interest of their patient’s privacy and dignity. The American Nurses Association elaborated in provision 1 that while rendering patients care the nurse should respect patients’ dignity, worth, and every attribute that defines their uniqueness. The code of ethics provided a guide in provision 3 that nurses should promote health, advocate, and protect the rights of patients. It also maintains that nurses should protect the data pertaining to the confidentiality of healthcare consumers (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2015). In other words, nurses are obligated to take extra steps when providing direct care to patients irrespective of their social status. Most importantly, nurses should take into consideration HIPAA and ANA guidelines because they had already laid down the regulation’s nurses should follow while rendeing patientcare.

As such, nurses should also be held accountable for their actions whenever they violate their patients’ rights by facing disciplinary actions. However, in other to reduce the type of ugly situation that happened because a nurse shared a piece of patient information some steps are to be taken into action. Berkeyheiser (2019) suggested that to avoid trouble with the law in regard to technology use it will be necessary to review the HIPAA polices. Healthcare workers should stay on top of technological advancement and its compliance to ensure privacy, security and effective data exchange. There is also a need for healthcare personnel to stay current by evaluating lawsuits and frequently ask questions on Civil Rights Websites about security, privacy, and cybersecurity. These steps will help healthcare employees to know how to balance the challenges of the use of protected health information when to use them, and whom to share information with.

Description of Criterion

Advantages of using smartphones and social media in healthcare

The use of smartphones has its pros and cons and its usage can easily violate patients’ rights because a considerable number of adults in the U.S are social media users. However, there is a huge advantage of using smartphones and social media as the use of technology advances. Therefore, it is crucial for healthcare workers to adhere to their professional communication so as to meet with these needs. For instance, social media are used by healthcare providers of fitness and wellness, rehabilitation, and physical therapists to create a credible site on health information about their services. Secondly, health consumers have changed from searching for information from their telephone books to using blogs and their Facebook page. This is because smartphone saves time due to the internet is everywhere and people can have access to it at any time (Gagnon, & Sabus, 2015). From this information, one can relate how smartphones and social media in healthcare are beneficial to make healthy behavioral changes and health decisions.

Disadvantages of using smartphones and social media in healthcare

The wrongful use of technology such as smartphones and social media can compromise ethical and professional integrity when it comes to patient privacy and safety. As such, Snoots (2016) has discussed the improper use of personal electronic devices among nurse anesthetists as it poses a safety risk when administering anesthesia. For example, cellphone use in areas like texting, browsing of the internet, social media use, and unlawful photographing with a smartphone has violated HIPPA. Other distractions include playing of loud music, reading printed material from the phone, and making phone conversation while providing care to patients. Secondly, a violation of HIPAA attracts imprisonment and fines through a federal or criminal court. Other consequences employees may face using personal electronic devices at workplace include loss of employment, suspension from work, investigation, and sanction from the licensing board.

Conclusion

After reading through the scenario I realize the importance of HIPAA in healthcare. HIPAA violations can happen knowingly or unknowingly without one immediately realizing the depth of havoc it could cause by just sharing information on social media. As a nurse, I learned not to use my cellphone while performing patient care because it is distracting and unethical. Instead, I should know my boundaries and adhere to my professional and organizational policies in other to protect my patients’ privacy and confidentiality at all costs. It will worth nothing for me to maintain the rules of social media usage over losing my professional license, paying fines, or spending time behind bars. It is also interesting to understand the benefits of smartphones and social media in healthcare because it is a tool that promotes health and decision making. In all, refresher courses on HIPAA should be mandatory to all nurses so that it will help remind healthcare professionals that social media is never the best means to disseminate patients’ health information.

References

  • American Nurses Association (2015). Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (3rd ed.). Silver Spring, MD: Nursesbooks.org.
  • Berkeyheiser, L. (2019). HIPAA challenges. Balancing Policy and Technology. For the Record (Great Valley Publishing Company, Inc.), 31(9), 6–7. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=139123981&site=eds-live&scope=site
  • Gagnon, K., & Sabus, C. (2015). Professionalism in a digital age: Opportunities and Considerations for Using Social Media in Health Care. Physical Therapy, 95(3), 406–414. https://doi-org.chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/10.2522/ptj.20130227d
  • 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://search-ebscohost-com.chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nup&AN=T904678&site=eds-live&scope=site
  • Snoots, L. R. (2016). Use of personal electronic devices by nurse anesthetists and the effects on patient safety. AANA Journal84(2), 114–119. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=114334340&site=eds-live&scope=site

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