NR360 – Smartphone and Social Media Use in Healthcare

Smartphones and social media have become central to everyday lives of many people. Many people use smartphones and social media sites to fulfill different tasks both at home and at their places of work (Gill, Kamath and Gill, 2012). For examples, clinicians greatly use smartphone photography to evaluate medical conditions for efficient healthcare delivery. Readily available smartphones may lead to the capture and storage of patient images that may later be exchanged through the social media. The market penetration of social media sites and smartphones is increasing at a very rapid rate in every professional field and industrial sector, particularly in the field of healthcare. This is bringing with it a number of ethical, professional, and legal dilemmas (Kirk et al., 2014). In the healthcare setting, smartphone and social media use can become security and privacy risks, making it wise to formulate policies that will guide their overuse and abuse by employees at work.

Discussion regarding HIPAA regulatory requirements

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, (HIPAA), of 1996 contains standards for privacy and security of patient information. The Act seeks to protect identifiable health information, thereby ensuring security and privacy of patients’ information (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act summarizes the regulatory requirements that all healthcare professionals, including nurses must adhere to in order to help protect identifiable health information. Under the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, healthcare professionals are required to provide patients with complete information on how their health information is disclosed and used. This is achieved by issuing patients with a Notice to Privacy Practices that documents how one’s information may be shared or used. The document also explains the legal rights of the patient as well as those of the healthcare provider with respect to protected health information (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

Additionally, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act states that patients have the right to scrutinize, review, and have a copy of their health information that is held by a healthcare institution. Every healthcare provider that is covered by the Health Insurance and Portability Act must comply with the patients’ request for access of their information (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). Again, under the Health Insurance and Portability Act, patients have the right to request healthcare institutions to amend their health information, particularly when the information held is either incomplete or inaccurate. Moreover, patients have a right to obtain an account of disclosures showing that the healthcare organization has shared an individual’s health information with an external institution under the Health Insurance and Portability Act (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

In addition, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act states that all patients have the right to request a healthcare institution to disclose their protected information to individuals or organizations for treatment purposes. The Act also established civil and criminal sanctions for violating its requirements. Violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulatory requirements is considered unprofessional, unethical, and illegal. Healthcare professionals, including nurses, must therefore understand and put these requirements into practice for effective protection of patients’ health information (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

Selected conclusion

Healthcare professionals who use smartphones and social media must adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulatory requirements. In the given scenario, taking Jerod’s photos as well as his personal information during medical assessment is professionally, ethically, and legally wrong. Focusing on the third conclusion, posting Jerod’s pictures taken using a smartphone on Instagram and Facebook is considered unprofessional, unethical, and illegal. The act is a complete violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act limits and prevents nonconsensual use and revelation of patients’ health information. The moment Jerod’s picture is posted on Facebook and Instagram, it will be available to millions of people who are also members of these social media sites. The fact that Jerod’s pictures were taken when he was unconscious and half-way dressed is a clear indication that Jerod is not aware that his pictures are being distributed by the healthcare professional. The act is therefore punishable under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

Advantages and disadvantages using smartphones and social media in healthcare

One example of technological advancement in healthcare is the use of smartphones and social media by healthcare professionals. The use of smartphones and social media in healthcare has got a number of advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that, smartphones and social media enable managers of healthcare institutions to disseminate relevant information to a large group of people in the shortest time possible. In addition, healthcare professionals use smartphones and social media sites to expand their horizons and learn more about patient care. Again, healthcare professionals enjoy educational opportunities where research and creative ideas are presented on the internet and social media sites. Physicians, nurses and other healthcare experts build professional networks using smartphones and social media sites (Hasley, 2010).

The use of smartphones and social media sites may pose privacy and security risks to both workers and patients who may have their details posted on the internet and other social media sites. In addition, healthcare professionals may use smartphones and social media sites to discuss the behavior of their colleagues as well as those of patients. Furthermore, healthcare professionals may take pictures of patients using smartphones and later post them on social media sites. Generally, the use of social media and smartphones may bring about numerous improvements on the nature of care received by patients, and at the same time ruin the professional, ethical, and legal relationship between a healthcare professional and his or her patient (Hasley, 2010).

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