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In today’s society, the use of smartphones and social media has become second nature. Most people are so quick to turn to their mobile devices and share photos and information about anything and everything via social media networks because it has become to be a primary method of communication with others worldwide. The speed at which information is dispersed via the internet is gratifying for most people but some may not realize the negative impacts and consequences that come along with using network platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, inappropriately and without caution. In healthcare settings, informatics plays a vital role in the way healthcare professionals share, educate, and learn about patients and formulate a plan of care. For example, photos of patient wounds are taken and delivered to a wound care nurse or specialist via computer systems for an expert opinion about the wound and what the plan of care should be.
In the midst of transferring or sharing patient information with another healthcare team member, healthcare professionals are expected to follow the HIPAA rules and regulations to ultimately protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients. However, the use of smartphones and social media in the workplace has made it difficult for some professionals to keep work information confidential and as a result violate the privacy and safety of patients. This paper will discuss how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is an integral part of all healthcare facilities, a scenario ending and recommendation regarding the nurse who violates a patient’s privacy while providing patient care, and the advantages and disadvantages of using smartphones and social media in the workplace.
According to Edelman and Kudzma (2018), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) ensures that individuals’ health information is properly protected, while allowing the flow of information needed to provide and promote high-quality care and to protect the public’s health and well-being. In healthcare, nurses are viewed as advocates for the patients. As a result, nurses are expected to care and protect patients from harm in every way possible – physically, mentally, holistically, and legally. Along with providing patients with quality bedside care, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of patients should also be a main priority for nurses. In busy work settings, like the emergency department, it is easy for patient information to be left unattended and viewed by others if not handled carefully. In the case of the nurse who took a photo of the celebrity patient, the actions taken by this nurse was unprofessional and unethical.
Not only did the nurse violate the patient’s privacy by taking the photo, the nurse unknowingly left her mobile device unattended, which therefore gave others the opportunity to have access to personal information stored on the phone – leading to the violation of the patient’s confidentiality. Information shared without consent is cause for legal action and repercussions, such as a revoked nursing or professional license. In any workplace, it is common for employers to educate their employees about the importance of HIPAA and how compliance of this law should be taken seriously. It is then the job of the employee to ensure that he or she abides by the HIPPA law to prevent any form of privacy violation.
The ending I chose for the assigned scenario is the ending in which I, as the nurse, receive a message from another team member regarding an investigation that is being conducted due to a HIPAA violation incident that involved a celebrity patient admitted to the hospital the night before. To my knowledge, I only sent a photo of the celebrity patient to my best friend – which I believe to be safe. After realizing my phone is missing, I panic because it becomes clear that the photo saved on my phone is not safe after all. In fact, the photo of the celebrity patient has been sold to the Gossip Gazette without my knowledge or consent. Although it was never my intention to violate HIPAA and harm the patient when taking the photo, I begin to learn the severity of the matter and become ashamed of my unprofessional behavior.
My job as this patient’s nurse was to provide care and maintain strict confidentiality but instead, I chose to be unethical, unprofessional, and blatantly disregarded all the privacy rights of the patient. I can understand the excitement one feels when presented with a celebrity patient and wants nothing more than to share photos and information with family and friends via text or social media postings. However, considering and respecting a patient’s privacy during treatment must always be a priority of healthcare professionals. As a recommendation, the nurse should have taken a moment to think about the repercussions and consequences that may arise from taking unconsented photos or personal information of patients – celebrity or not. Next, the nurse should have referred to the company’s rules, regulations, and guidelines regarding the use of mobile devices, such as smartphones, and social media in the workplace to confirm what is considered acceptable behavior versus what is not.
In healthcare, there are both advantages and disadvantages when using mobile devices, such as smartphones or iPads, and social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. C. Lee Ventola (2014), medical writer for National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), states that social media tools can be used to improve or enhance professional networking and education, organizational promotion, patient care, patient education, and public health programs.
As far as technology and mobile devices or iPads, the use of such tools allow healthcare professionals in performing their jobs with ease. For example, a wound nurse can easily use a smartphone equipped with a high-quality camera to take photos of patient wounds to further relay message to other experts in the field to determine plan of care – all the while adhering to the company’s rules and regulations regarding HIPAA.
With technological advancements in healthcare, healthcare professionals are equipped with providing excellent patient care with just a click of a button. From admitting patients to taking their vital signs, private information is constantly being obtained and shared by and with professionals.
In order for patients to continue in trusting the entire healthcare team while in the hospital, employees should work in an ethical manner and show professionalism at all times. If a nurse comes to a point in his or her profession where he or she is faced with a decision about snapping a quick picture of a famous celebrity only to share with others via social media, it would be best for the nurse to stop and think what if it were he or she whose privacy is about to be violated.
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