Protected Health Information (PHI)
According to HIPAA Journal (2021), under HIPAA, PHI is viewed to be individually identifiable data that relates to the future, present, and past status of a person that is collected, maintained, transmitted, or managed by an entity that is HIPAA covered, based on the payment of health services, provision of health services or use in the operations of a healthcare institution. Under HIPAA, health information like prescription data, medical test results, treatment information, and diagnosis are all examples of protected health information. While PHI is related to the physical information of an individual, electronic PHI refers to PHI that is received, transmitted, stored, or created electronically.
Privacy, Security, and Confidentiality
Privacy has been widely known as a right to be alone (Harman, Flite & Bond, 2012). This means that it is the right of all persons to keep their personal information, such as gender, name, or background data, from being exposed to other people.
The information shared following a clinical relationship is often considered confidential and deserves protection. This information can be in different forms, including laboratory notes, progress notes, treatment notes, diagnosis, and identification data. This information can be stored in various forms, such as electronic files, videos, and paper. Regarding health record information, confidentiality shows protection from unauthorized access to, destruction, or modification of health information (Donaldson & Lohr, 1994). Therefore, there is meaning in confidentiality only when the information holder has the legal, moral, and technical capacity and the will to protect data.
Security is related to when data is shielded from intentional or accidental disclosure to unauthorized individuals and from accidental or unauthorized alteration (Donaldson & Lohr, 1994). For instance, in the healthcare setting, in computer-controlled systems, security measures are taken using safeguards such as software (log-on procedures, audit trails), hardware (memory protection), personnel control (badges and other measures to limit movement), disaster preparedness, administration (security personnel, auditing events), management oversight and disaster preparedness mechanisms like sprinklers.
Evidence relating to Social Media Usage and PHI that the Interprofessional Team needs to be aware of
According to Wofford (2019), over fifty employees, including nurses who worked with the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, were fired after they were accused of improperly reviewing the medical records of an actor. Most healthcare organizations have either suspended or terminated the employment of employees who have violated social media policies. For instance, the employees at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital were fired immediately for accessing and inappropriately viewing the medical records of an actor named Smollett. It is also reported that by the first half of 2018, over 56% of 4.5 billion compromised information records were from incidents of social media (Clark, 2020).
Under HIPAA privacy rules, violation penalties range from $100 to $50,000 per violation based on a tiered structure (Nasiri, 2019). The yearly maximum penalty is $1.5 million, and criminal penalties could result in 10 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000. Other healthcare professionals lose their medical licenses and their jobs and/or face lawsuits (Nasiri, 2019).
In summary, to prevent or reduce confidentiality, security, and privacy breaches, healthcare organizations have established employee guidelines relating to the appropriate usage of social media, such as the definition of responsibilities when witnessing the use of social media inappropriately, the purpose of disciplinary actions relating to inappropriate use of social media, and monitor, ban or limit employee access to social networking sites (Ventola, 2014).
Clark, M (2020). Real-World Examples of Social Media HIPPA Violations. Retrieved 10/8/2021 from https://etactics.com/blog/social-media-hipaa-violation
Donaldson, M. S., & Lohr, K. N. (1994). Confidentiality and Privacy of Personal Data. In Health Data in the Information Age: Use, Disclosure, and Privacy. National Academies Press (US).
Harman, L. B., Flite, C. A., & Bond, K. (2012). Electronic health records: privacy, confidentiality, and security. AMA Journal of Ethics, 14(9), 712-719.
HIPAA Journal (2021). What is Protected Health Information? Retrieved 10/8/2021 from https://www.hipaajournal.com/what-is-protected-health-information/
Nasiri, S. (2019). HIPPA and Social Media: What You Need to Know. Retrieved 10/8/2021 from https://reciprocity.com/hipaa-and-social-media-what-you-need-to-know/
Ventola, C. L. (2014). Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. Pharmacy and therapeutics, 39(7), 491.
Wofford, P. (2019). Jussie Smollett Case: 50 Hospital Workers Fired for Alleged HIPAA Violations. Retrieved 10/8/2021 from https://nurse.org/articles/smollett-hospital-workers-fired/
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In this assessment, assume you are a nurse in an acute care, community, school, nursing home, or other healthcare settings. 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 breaches 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 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 violation, the organization terminated 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 topics and create the content for a staff update containing a maximum of two content pages. This assessment is not an essay. It is a Staff Update about PHI.
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 know? For example:
How many nurses have been terminated for inappropriate social media use in the United States?
What sanctions have healthcare organizations imposed on interdisciplinary team members who have violated social media policies?
What have been the financial penalties assessed against healthcare organizations for inappropriate social media use?
What evidence-based strategies have healthcare organizations employed to prevent or reduce confidentiality, privacy, and security breaches, particularly regarding social media usage?
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