Interprofessional Staff Update on HIPAA and Appropriate Social Media Use in Health Care

Assignment Instructions

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


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.

Demonstration of Proficiency

Demonstrate through the following assessment criteria:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Interprofessional Staff Update on HIPAA and Appropriate Social Media Use in Health Care

Protected Health Information (PHI): Privacy, Security, and Confidentiality Best Practice

The use of modern technologies in the health care organization has introduced a new issue regarding protecting the security, privacy, and confidentiality of patient information in health care organizations. The introduction of digital technology in health care increased the risk of data security, privacy, and confidentiality breach. To prevent this, there was an introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to force health care organizations to observe patient data security, privacy, and confidentiality (Aselton & Affenito, 2014). To be able to keep up with these rules, a high level of interdisciplinary collaboration and self-discipline while using healthcare electronics and social media should be observed among health care organization staff.

Read also Key Elements of Certified Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Protection of patient data confidentiality, privacy, and security is a personal commitment as a health care professional, especially when using mobile devices and social media platforms. Every member of the health care team should embrace personal good security enhancement practices to protect patient data. Some of these practices include logging off personal accounts after use, having a strong password, not sharing passwords and changing passwords frequently, and only sharing patient information with authorized individuals and for the permitted purpose. All mobile devices used for health care purposes should have a password to ensure their inaccessibility by unauthorized third parties in case of theft. Every member planning to share patient data through the network system should ensure that the data is encrypted to avoid interception, which is likely to interfere with data confidentiality, security, and privacy (Kruse, Sith, Vanderlinden & Nealand, 2017).

Read also When there is a Breach of Privacy, has a Breach of Fiduciary Duty Occurred?

Social media has been reported to be one of the main sources of HIPAA breaches among health care workers. It is well acknowledged that mobile social media and the internet are the processes currently used by people to share information, links, and content via dialogue. The use of social media can be quite helpful in sharing the right information with other colleagues and patients, especially general health information that a patient may need to maintain good health. However, there are a lot of risks involved in the use of social media as a health care professional team. These include a lack of message control. It is important to note that a message, even send by mistake can spread in social media like wildfire; without control or limitation. It is therefore very important to ensure that one does not send any protected patient information through social media, even to a colleague. Sending protected picture, video, voice recording or data through social media create a risk of exposing patient information to a third party, knowingly or unknowingly, risking the HIPAA breach (Ventola, 2014). 

Read also NR-512 – Safeguarding Health Information and Systems

In a situation where one must use social media to send protected patient information, privacy settings should be reviewed to protect the content and information. In addition, appropriate professional boundaries should be maintained when involved in online patient interaction to ensure patient confidentiality and privacy is observed. It is also important to ensure that the person on the other end is the intended recipient and not a third party sitting behind the device or user’s account. Information in the wrong hands can easily mess with the patient data security. Professionals should always ensure they control what they share through social media, especially since they are not sure of how the recipient may consider using this information in the future (Alsughayr, 2015). It is hard to hide information posted online, especially through the social platform. Thus it is better to protect what originates from you than to hope that the recipient will understand its sensitivity and protect it for you. Careless sharing of information in social media can highly damage individual professional image and even attract legal measures against an individual. It is thus important to be highly professional, selective and careful while sharing this kind of information (Singh et al., 2016).

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