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Protected Health Information (PHI)- Privacy Security and Confidentiality Best Practices

Protected Health Information (PHI)- Privacy Security and Confidentiality Best Practices

Protected Health Information (PHI): Best Practices

PHI refers to all health information created, transmitted, received, or stored by all HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates.

It includes all identifiable health information, such as medical history, demographic data of patients, insurance information, test results, and others.

PHI is protected under the HIPAA privacy and security rule (Moore & Frye, 2019).

What are privacy, security, and confidentiality?

The privacy rule requires appropriate safeguards by all HIPAA-covered entities to protect PHI. In this regard, these entities set limits and conditions on the use and disclosure of PHI without consent from the individual.

The security rule applies to PHI. It requires physical, administrative, and technical safeguards of PHI to ensure the security, integrity, and confidentiality of this information is maintained.

Confidentiality refers to the preservation of authorized restrictions on access and disclosure of PHI. It is designed to protect PHI from unauthorized access or access attempts as well as disclosure of this information by various covered entities (Garner, 2021). privacy, security, and confidentiality?

Interdisciplinary Collaboration to Safeguard PHI

Healthcare providers are part of the covered entities listed under the HIPAA privacy and security rule.

They are mandated by law to ensure necessary safety and security safeguards on PHI.

Collaborative approaches provide a platform for enhancing providers’ understanding of PHI.

These approaches also enhance providers’ understanding of healthcare technologies that store and transmit PHI, thereby enhancing their safeguard measures for the privacy and security of PHI (McGraw & Mandl, 2021).

PHI Protection in the Era of Social Media Use

Social media platforms have been implicated in breaches in confidentiality, privacy, and security safeguards on PHI (Balestra, 2018).

In the U.S., 81% of nurses use social media in their normal life interactions.

Nurse-related HIPAA violations have been established in over 35 instances.

Sanction and Penalties against Violators of Social Media Policies and HIPAA

Sanction differs and is dependent on the extent of the breach.

Minor violations may be handled internally.

Violators may be subjected to additional training on PHI protections.

Serious violation fetches disciplinary actions: termination or punishment by the board of nursing in the jurisdiction the nurse is practicing in may be warranted.

Complaints submitted to the DOJ against providers and healthcare organizations may fetch fines and jail terms.

Fines of up to $250,000 or jail terms of up to 10 years.

Evidence-based strategies to prevent/reduce confidentiality, privacy, and security breaches

Educating healthcare providers on PHI protection measures with social media use.

Retrieving and destroying improperly disclosed PHI.

Modifying policies on social media use to prevent it from being a source of PHI security compromises.

Warning providers of potential penalties for breaching security, privacy, and confidentiality of PHI (Seh et al., 2020).


Balestra, M. L. (2018, March). Social Media Missteps Could Put Your Nursing License at Risk. American Nurse. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

Garner, G. (2021, September 16). What does HIPAA stand for?: 5 main HIPAA rules and standards. Blog – HIPAA Training, Certification and Compliance. Retrieved December 12, 2022, from

McGraw, D., & Mandl, K. D. (2021). Privacy protections to encourage use of health-relevant digital data in a learning health system. Npj Digital Medicine, 4(1).

Moore, W., & Frye, S. (2019). Review of HIPAA, part 1: History, protected health information, and privacy and security rules. Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology, 47(4), 269–272.

Seh, A. H., Zarour, M., Alenezi, M., Sarkar, A. K., Agrawal, A., Kumar, R., & Ahmad Khan, R. (2020). Healthcare data breaches: Insights and implications. Healthcare, 8(2), 133.


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Prepare a 2-page interprofessional staff update on HIPAA and appropriate social media use in health care.

As you begin to consider the assessment, it would be an excellent choice to complete the Breach of Protected Health Information (PHI) activity. The activity will support your success with the assessment by creating the opportunity for you to test your knowledge of potential privacy, security, and confidentiality violations of protected health information. The activity is not graded and counts towards course engagement.

Protected Health Information (PHI)- Privacy Security and Confidentiality Best Practices

Protected Health Information (PHI)- Privacy Security and Confidentiality Best Practices

Health professionals today are increasingly accountable for the use of protected health information (PHI). Various government and regulatory agencies promote and support privacy and security through a variety of activities. Examples include:

Meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR).
Provision of EHR incentive programs through Medicare and Medicaid.
Enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules.
Release of educational resources and tools to help providers and hospitals address privacy, security, and confidentiality risks in their practices.
Technological advances, such as the use of social media platforms and applications for patient progress tracking and communication, have provided more access to health information and improved communication between care providers and patients.

At the same time, advances such as these have resulted in more risk for protecting PHI. Nurses typically receive annual training on protecting patient information in their everyday practice. This training usually emphasizes privacy, security, and confidentiality best practices such as:

Keeping passwords secure.
Logging out of public computers.
Sharing patient information only with those directly providing care or who have been granted permission to receive this information.
Today, one of the major risks associated with privacy and confidentiality of patient identity and data relates to social media. Many nurses and other health care providers place themselves at risk when they use social media or other electronic communication systems inappropriately. For example, a Texas nurse was recently terminated for posting patient vaccination information on Facebook. In another case, a New York nurse was terminated for posting an insensitive emergency department photo on her Instagram account.

Health care providers today must develop their skills in mitigating risks to their patients and themselves related to patient information. At the same time, they need to be able distinguish between effective and ineffective uses of social media in health care.

This assessment will require you to develop a staff update for the interprofessional team to encourage team members to protect the privacy, confidentiality, and security of patient information.

To successfully prepare to complete this assessment, complete the following:

Review the infographics on protecting PHI provided in the resources for this assessment, or find other infographics to review. These infographics serve as examples of how to succinctly summarize evidence-based information.
Analyze these infographics and distill them into five or six principles of what makes them effective. As you design your interprofessional staff update, apply these principles. Note: In a staff update, you will not have all the images and graphics that an infographic might contain. Instead, focus your analysis on what makes the messaging effective.
Select from any of the following options, or a combination of options, the focus of your interprofessional staff update:
Social media best practices.
What not to do: social media.
Social media risks to patient information.
Steps to take if a breach occurs.
Conduct independent research on the topic you have selected in addition to reviewing the suggested resources for this assessment. This information will serve as the source(s) of the information contained in your interprofessional staff update. Consult the BSN Program Library Research Guide for help in identifying scholarly and/or authoritative sources.
In this assessment, assume you are a nurse in an acute care, community, school, nursing home, or other health care setting. Before your shift begins, you scroll through Facebook and notice that a coworker has posted a photo of herself and a patient on Facebook. The post states, “I am so happy Jane is feeling better. She is just the best patient I’ve ever had, and I am excited that she is on the road to recovery.”

You have recently completed your annual continuing education requirements at work and realize this is a breach of your organization’s social media policy. Your organization requires employees to immediately report such breaches to the privacy officer to ensure the post is removed immediately and that the nurse responsible receives appropriate corrective action.

You follow appropriate organizational protocols and report the breach to the privacy officer. The privacy officer takes swift action to remove the post. Due to the severity of the breach, the organization terminates the nurse.

Based on this incident’s severity, your organization has established a task force with two main goals:

Educate staff on HIPAA and appropriate social media use in health care.
Prevent confidentiality, security, and privacy breaches.
The task force has been charged with creating a series of interprofessional staff updates on the following topics:

Social media best practices.
What not to do: Social media.
Social media risks to patient information.
Steps to take if a breach occurs.
You are asked to select one or more of the topics and create the content for a staff update containing a maximum of two content pages. This assessment is not a traditional essay. It is a staff educational update about PHI. Consider creating a flyer, pamphlet, or one PowerPoint slide (not an entire presentation). Remember it should not be more than two pages (excluding a title and a reference page).

The task force has asked team members assigned to the topics to include the following content in their updates in addition to content on their selected topics:

What is protected health information (PHI)?
Be sure to include essential HIPAA information.
What are privacy, security, and confidentiality?
Define and provide examples of privacy, security, and confidentiality concerns related to the use of technology in health care.
Explain the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to safeguard sensitive electronic health information.
What evidence relating to social media usage and PHI do interprofessional team members need to be aware of? For example:
How many nurses have been terminated for inappropriate social media use in the United States?
What types of sanctions have health care organizations imposed on interdisciplinary team members who have violated social media policies?
What have been the financial penalties assessed against health care organizations for inappropriate social media use?
What evidence-based strategies have health care organizations employed to prevent or reduce confidentiality, privacy, and security breaches, particularly related to social media usage?
Your staff update is limited to two double-spaced content pages. Be selective about the content you choose to include in your update so you can meet the page length requirement. Include need-to-know information. Omit nice-to-know information.
Many times people do not read staff updates, do not read them carefully, or do not read them to the end. Ensure your staff update piques staff members’ interest, highlights key points, and is easy to read. Avoid overcrowding the update with too much content.
Also, supply a separate reference page that includes two or three peer-reviewed and one or two non-peer-reviewed resources (for a total of 3–5 resources) to support the staff update content.
Additional Requirements
Written communication: Ensure the staff update is free from errors that detract from the overall message.
Submission length: Maximum of two double-spaced content pages.
Font and font size: Use Times New Roman, 12-point.
Citations and references: Provide a separate reference page that includes 2–3 current, peer-reviewed and 1–2 current, non-peer-reviewed in-text citations and references (total of 3–5 resources) that support the staff update’s content. Current means no older than 5 years.
APA format: Be sure your citations and references adhere to APA format. Consult the Evidence and APA page for an APA refresher.
Competencies Measured
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and scoring guide criteria:

Competency 1: Describe nurses’ and the interdisciplinary team’s role in informatics with a focus on electronic health information and patient care technology to support decision making.
Describe the security, privacy, and confidentially laws related to protecting sensitive electronic health information that govern the interdisciplinary team.
Explain the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to safeguard sensitive electronic health information.
Competency 2: Implement evidence-based strategies to effectively manage protected health information.
Identify evidence-based approaches to mitigate risks to patients and health care staff related to sensitive electronic health information.
Develop a professional, effective staff update that educates interprofessional team members about protecting the security, privacy, and confidentiality of patient data, particularly as it pertains to social media usage.
Competency 5: Apply professional, scholarly communication to facilitate use of health information and patient care technologies.
Follow APA style and formatting guidelines for citations and references.
Create a clear, concise, well-organized, and professional staff update that is generally free from errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

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