Patient confidentiality is one of the most paramount ethical values a health professional should uphold during their care. A patient’s confidentiality, security, or privacy is the provision that the information disclosed by a patient to a doctor or a nurse remains secrete, and it is unlawful to disclose it to any unauthorized party (Demirsoy & Kirimlioglu, 2016). With recent advancements in technology, a lot of healthcare providers have been reported to violate this principle. Every year in the United States, over 15,000 nurses are fired or otherwise retaliated against for improper use of social media.
This number is relatively high, signifying professional outrage among professional workers who oversee the day-to-day care of patients. Health institutions have increasingly resorted to keeping patients’ health information electronically for faster retrieval and efficiency. Without proper measures and guidelines to safeguard this sensitive electronic health information, unauthorized personnel can access them and violate patient confidentiality.
Protected health information is defined as knowledge about a patient’s health status developed, collected, transferred, or preserved by a HIPAA-covered entity to conduct healthcare activities (Mbonihankuye et al., 2019).
There are instituted laws that ensure electronic health information and govern the interdisciplinary team involved in patient management. These laws ensure access control to electronic health records by using tools such as passwords, user codes, and PINs. These tools are counterchecked and updated frequently to ensure unauthorized individuals do not have access to information. The laws institute policies that ensure stored information is safe by encrypting it in a secret code that only authorized personnel can decode. Electronic media transfer is first, and leaking information can travel fast to the public, hence the need to safeguard it tightly.
Under nursing, health care legislation is vital to protect each patient’s confidence, privacy, and security. Medical professionals have access to a variety of information and communication technologies, including social networking sites. Professionalism and high ethical standards should always be maintained at or away from workplaces (Roehrs et al., 2017). A coherent interdisciplinary collaboration is essential across the health profession to ensure every worker is on the same page and observing the required standard behavior. An interdisciplinary collaboration ensures teamwork and progress towards ensuring patient confidentiality and proper use of social media among health workers. A proper collaboration ensures efficient sharing of information and encourages reporting of nurses who misuse social media platforms.
Recently, a nurse in my health institution posted a picture of her and a patient and disclosed the patient’s name on Facebook. This is outrageously wrong and breaches patients’ privacy and confidentiality as per the HIPAA rules. I reported the nurse to the relevant authority for appropriate corrective action and educated my fellow nurses on social media risks to patient information developed.
Sharing private patient information to the public on social media puts the patient at danger of discrimination and stigmatization depending on their condition (Shenoy & Appel, 2017). Also, this puts the patient at the risk of being hoaxed, victimized and manipulated by some public members. Therefore, a nurse needs to learn their limits when using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. They should minimize usage at workplaces and refrain from engaging in discussions that would later tempt them into sharing private information.
HIPAA sets the national standards to protect personal health information and other medical records. HIPAA is crucial because it lowers the number of medical errors by reducing prescription errors, improving the patient experience, and ensuring better healthcare outcomes. It is, however, essential that nurses and other healthcare providers be at the forefront in ensuring there is no breaching of patients’ confidentiality, and those who do so are reported for proper sanctioning as per the HIPAA act.
Demirsoy, N., & Kirimlioglu, N. (2016). Protection of privacy and confidentiality as a patient right: Physicians’ and nurses’ viewpoints. Biomedical Research, 27(4), 1437-1448. Web.
Mbonihankuye, S., Nkunzimana, A., & Ndagijimana, A. (2019). Healthcare data security technology: HIPAA compliance. Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing, 2019. Web.
Roehrs, A., Da Costa, C. A., & da Rosa Righi, R. (2017). OmniPHR: A distributed architecture model to integrate personal health records. Journal of biomedical informatics, 71, 70-81.
Shenoy, A., & Appel, J. M. (2017). Safeguarding confidentiality in electronic health records. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, 26(2), 337-341. Web.