Social media has now become a big part of today’s society. It allows families and friends to share moments with one another. It is a cyber world that allow people to interact with one another. Social media has also become a place where education and teaching can take place. For example, Instagram is one of the most popular social media networks where medical pages post educational content related to surgeries, diseases and new discoveries in science. It is now easier for people to access all of these content through the use of cellphones which have also become a part of society. It is faster for people research information through cell phones and it is more convenient because are easier to carry. Although social media and cell phones are a big part of today’s world, it is possible that it can have its advantages and disadvantages such as pictures or information being shared out to the world without anyone’s consent and this can result in ethical and legal issues especially in the healthcare field. This paper will provide information about legal regulations regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the use of cell phones and social media in the healthcare field, it will discuss different ways in which the scenario provided can be managed differently and appropriately and lastly, it will also provide the advantages and disadvantages of the social media and cell phones in the healthcare field.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures that patients healthcare and medical information are protected. HIPAA’s privacy rule protects healthcare information plans, healthcare clearinghouses and any financial information related to the patient (Hader L. Amy et al brown D. Evan 2010). This is important to know due to the fact that nurses chart patient’s information most of the time and it is important to always be aware of closing patients medical record to prevent any invasion of privacy. HIPAA is also responsible for protecting any personal information about patients regarding their medical history such as any diseases or illnesses a patient may be suffering from. According to a research article, in one reported case, two nurses were discussing information about a patient with HIV/AIDS whom was hospitalized in the hospital they worked at. This was reported to the nurses licensing board, and both nurses were placed on leave, one nurse decided to leave the hospital and the other was put on one-year probation and received a write up on her personnel file. This demonstrates how severe a HIPAA violation is. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing HIPAA. OCR’s are in charge of regulating HIPAA’s policies and regulations. If a violation is committed in the healthcare field whether its conversating about patients’ situations or sharing information in social media, the OCR will conduct investigations regarding the issue. The OCR will take corrective action and such violations of HIPAA may lead to monetary penalties, involvement of U.S Department of Justice for criminal investigations and may also lead to fines of up to $50,000 dollars and one year of jail time (Hader L. Amy et al brown D. Evan 2010). The case study provided for this assignment demonstrated the inappropriate behavior of the nurse by taking pictures with her cellphone of the celebrity being admitted to the hospital. This is easily considered a HIPAA violation due to the nurse breaking the privacy and confidentially code.
The scenario ending that was chosen was number four which as described a coworker informs the nurse that a HIPAA violation had been committed which it involved a celebrity treated at the hospital where the nurse who took some photos works at. The cellphone that was used to take certain pictures of the celebrity is now missing. The ending of this scenario demonstrates a HIPAA violation and a breach in the patient’s privacy. It is important that nurses and other health care professionals remain mindful of their actions by keeping in mind the code of ethics for nurses which provides statements of ethical obligations, duties and responsibilities. According to a research article, HIPAA has faculty policies, state common laws and regulations that protect the patients’ privacy and confidentially (Hader L. Amy et al brown D. Evan 2010). As it is the nurses are responsibility to ensure that any patients medical information is kept confidential, it would’ve been appropriate and respectful from the nurse to refrain from taking any pictures about the celebrity brought in during her shift. It is known that a breach in privacy can face the consequences of civil liability to patients, disciplinary action by the state licensing boards and even possible criminal sanctions (Hader L. Amy et al brown D. Evan 2010).
According to a published article by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, social media provides a variety of tools for health care professionals. These social networking tools include blogs, microblogs, wikis and other methods of social media to communicate, educate and share information among health care professionals to help improve the quality of care of patients (Ventola C. L et al 2014). This is an advantage of social media in the healthcare field as it allows professionals to share educational content with other healthcare professionals. This educational content can serve as a method to teach and provide information for the public and students in the healthcare field. Another advantage of social media is that it provides a forum for nurses to engage in dialogues with nurses and other health care professionals. (Barry J. et al Hardiker R. N 2012). This allows for communication between healthcare professionals that can provide a rich and useful information. Although social media can pose many advantages to the healthcare profession, it always comes with disadvantages. One major concern with social media in the healthcare field is a breach privacy and confidentiality. According to a survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the state board of nursing received 33 complaints regarding nurses violating patients’ privacy by sharing information on social media sites (Barry J. et al Hardiker R. N 2012). This is a very concerning issue due to the fact a violation in patients’ privacy negatively impact the nurse. Aside from that, this endangers the relationship between the patient and the nurses which can potentially affect the quality of care of the patient. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), privacy and confidentially is essential in maintaining a relationship build on trust between providers and clients (ANA Center of Ethics and Human Rights). To add on, the risk of unprofessional behavior is considered another posing risk of social media when used inappropriately by health care professionals. Besides breaches in the privacy and confidentially of patients due to the use in social media, unprofessional behaviors in the workplace have also come in the concern due to portraying an unprofessional image of workers in healthcare. For example, professionals that use social media to share images and other content need to be aware of the content being shared. According to a study, 70% of medical students and residents shared inappropriate images on their social network containing illicit behavior and inappropriate use of language on their posts (Barry J. et al Hardiker R. N 2012). This does not only affect the person sharing this content, but it also makes the individual inappropriate behavior that does not only provide an unprofessional image, but it can affect employment opportunities.
While social media provides a place where people stay connected with friends and family, it is important healthcare professionals such as nurses, providers and other healthcare professionals remain mindful of the content being shared. Outside of the workplace, nurses and other healthcare professional have a different life with friends and family that they like to share things, but it is important to remain respectful by not sharing any client information. This includes not sharing names, address and most importantly, their medical history. Since I’ve started my nursing education about a year ago and learned about HIPAA and other legal restrictions as well as ethical dilemmas about patient’s privacy and confidentially, I’ve decided I would not discuss or share any information about any clients that I may take care of throughout my career. I’ve now started clinical, and I’ve experienced and I’ve seen things that are heartbreaking and overwhelming, but despite this, I’ve learned that it is critically important not to share any information about the people I’ve taken care of. Throughout the research for this paper, I came across many articles about healthcare professional that violated HIPAA and suffered from its consequences, not only did the professionals suffered, but also the trust between provider and client was broken. It is important that as nurses it is our responsibility to protect our patient’s privacy and not share any information that can hurt them and us.
- ANA Center for Ethics and Human Rights (June 2015) “American Nurses Association Position Statement on Privavy and Confidentially”. Retrieved on January 26, 2019, from https://www.nursingworld.org/~4ad4a8/globalassets/docs/ana/position-statement-privacy-and-confidentiality.pdf
- Barry, J., Hardiker, N., (September 30, 2012) “Advancing Nursing Practice Through Social Media: A Global Perspective” OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 17, No. 3, Manuscript 5.
- Hader AL, & Brown ED. (2010). LEGAL BRIEFS. Patient Privacy and Social Media. AANA Journal, 78(4), 270–274. Retrieved from https://chamberlainuniversity.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ccm&AN=105079519&site=eds-live&scope=site
- Ventola C. L. (2014). Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. P & T: a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 39(7), 491-520.