In the advancing world of technology we have access to various forms of devices, which enable us to communicate faster and efficiently. Technology has provided us to communicate with one another via phone call, text messenger, FaceTime and other forms of social media that make communication a lot easier. As technologies continue to grow, it has significantly made an impact in the medical field. Nursing informatics itself is a specialty that encourages the usage of communication technology that makes patient data and documentation organized and easily accessible to health professionals caring for a patient, not only are health professionals can communicate this data among other health professionals, but they are now able to do this directly with the patient via online.
Patients can easily have direct access to this information with an account that is made for them in the hospital.
With the usage of these tools, we are now able to easily share data, however, as technology continues to advance, health professionals must consider that patients’ confidentiality remains preserved.
Rules and regulations are put into place to enforce the privacy of patients and consequences can be faced when they are broken. This paper we will discuss the role of HIPPA and what legal consequences that is faced when a health professional breaks it. In doing so, we are going to support this discussion with a scenario of a nurse who encounters a celebrity during her shift and comes across ethical issues due to social media use. We will also further discuss the advancements and disadvantages of technology use in the medical field and how it has changed privacy rules and regulations in past years.
HIPAA other known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, “safeguards the access of working Americans and their families to health insurance and protects the right of patients to privacy of their healthcare information by regulating the disclosure of protected health information”. With rules and regulations such as this mandates health professionals to ensure patient privacy. “As a consequence of more stringent confidentiality laws and more widespread availability and use of social and mobile media, numerous ethical and legal dilemmas have been posed to nurses”. The use of cellphones and social media in the healthcare system has made its way in the medial field. With advancing technologies, we are now using more devices that can easily lead to HIPAA breaches. “Smartphones have the capability to take still pictures as well as live recordings; they have found their way into treatment rooms around the globe”. Without patient consent and with HIPPA’s rules and regulations, taking part in a privacy breach can lead to legality issues for those who break it. “Basic HIPAA training should include information on using social media, and staff should be aware of their responsibility to patients, HIPAA, and the organization even when off-duty”.
The scenario ending I chose to pick is option four: “You receive a message the next morning from a peer at work that there is a big investigation being conducted at work due to a HIPAA violation and that it involved a celebrity who had been admitted to the hospital. The word is that legal action is being taken against the hospital due to some photos that were sold to the Gossip Gazette. Knowing that the photo you sent is safe with your best friend, you reach for your smartphone, but it is nowhere to be found.” In this situation, we can come into terms that the nurse has committed to a HIPPA breach. It is important that the nurse takes action and hold account for what she did. I would recommend that the nurse get in contact with the team undergoing the process of the investigation or the HIPAA compliance officer. I would suggest the nurse to keep truthful of what happened and explain exactly what was shared. When a HIPAA breach such as this occur, the nurse involved can face consequences like termination and/or lose his/her nursing license. Other consequences that can be applied are charging the nurse with a fine up to $50,000 per violation. This is depended on how severe the violation is.
The advancements of technology use have greatly impacted the healthcare system and it has many advantages. These advantages aid in communicating patient health data and records in an organized and efficient manner among health team members like physicians and nurses. Not only are health professionals provided with computerized communication systems but they are also given work cell phones that allow them to call team members to communicate a message faster. All of these tools are ultimately provided so that patient outcomes are improved and make health team members work through their day efficiently. Another advantage it has provided is direct patient access to their chart. An example of this would be a MyChart account, this allows patients to login to their account to access test results, personal health information and even provide them tools to schedule an appointment without having to call the doctors office.
As we continue to see the usage of technology, we realize how much it has given health professionals and patients advantages. However, disadvantages are also seen with improper usage of technology in the health care systems. A disadvantage commonly seen would be the risk of breaking patient confidentiality. As previously discussed in the scenario, patient privacy can be violated. Since smartphones are everywhere, medical professionals might share patient information simply by taking an unauthorized picture, such as the scenario provided above. Other disadvantages may also be seen through the improper usage of social media. “Other staff may deliberately share information to shame or harass patients. Organizations must instruct staff that such behavior is unacceptable and will result in strong action, up to and including immediate termination. Ultimately, the choice to follow the rules and behave responsibly is up to the individual, but having clear policies against sharing PHI on social media and proof that all staff are trained on these policies will limit an organization’s liability” (2016).
Healthcare embraces the usage of technology and the integration of these tools have made improvements in patient outcomes, operations and is even cost efficient. Technology use has its advantages, but also impacted healthcare systems that bring disadvantages, such as patient confidentiality. With that being said, it is important that the privacy of patients is remained by health care professionals. In doing so, health professionals are held accountable to make ethical decisions to remain compliant with rules and regulations that HIPAA mandates.
In this scenario, I learned that it is the duty of the nurse to protect the patient’s confidentiality. Ethical issues are encountered if it is broken, for example taking an unauthorized photo of a patient and sending it via text message. It is also important that we must practice proper smartphone usage in a workplace. This can greatly deter the incidence of HIPAA breaches. Another great take away from this lesson is that the HIPAA regulations don’t only apply when you are in your workplace; this also applies when leaving work. Practicing the privacy of patients outside of work also still applies within the HIPPA regulations.