Technology gives us more capabilities than we ever had before, and health care organizations need to ensure that their staff members are aware of the regulations surrounding the use of technology in the workplace, both for work-related activities and private activities. The prompt was of a nurse who took photos of a celebrity and texted them to her friend. This action constitutes a violation of HIPAA, wherein the Privacy Rule holds the health care providers must safeguard information from your medical records, any information that is recorded by the health care provider, billing information and any other health information (HHS.gov, 2015). Furthermore, there has clearly been an ethical violation committed with regards to the recording of the patient without their consent, and the distribution of that material. Patient information is always confidential in nature, by ethics even if not by law (Mulholland, 1994). This paper will examine the situation presented in the prompt through the lens of nursing privacy laws and ethics.
HIPAA Regulatory Requirements
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes in its provisions the Privacy Rule, which afford patients a certain amount of privacy in the digital age. The Rule "establishes national standards to protect individuals' medical records and other personal health information…" (HHS.gov, 2015). In part 164.105, the law references "protected health information" (HIPAA, 2007). Based on this, the nurse violated HIPAA by revealing the medical records of the victim, his demographic information including home address. Even the photograph of the victim, which would convey his current health status, may fall under HIPAA. The law exists...
While the law was written more specifically for the everyday conduct of a health care organization, as opposed to the use described in the case, but the nurse in question was a health care practitioner, on duty, and was therefore obligated to follow HIPAA regulations.
Smartphones have many uses in healthcare, though it is important to separate from the outset the scenario presented. The scenario presented did not represent a use of smartphones in health care. The nurse in question was not performing health care duties with her smartphone -- that was personal usage while on the job, which is an entirely different matter. Personal usage on the job is still subject to HIPAA, but it has nothing to do with actually using smartphones to conduct medical business.
Smartphone applications have proliferated in health care, and that is one advantage. Applications can, for example, receive data from a monitor that the patient wears via Bluetooth, and then based on this information perform tasks. This can include calling emergency should a patient's heart rate drop suddenly, or this technology could be used to regulate medical equipment, IV drips or drug intake. More mundane uses include communications -- the patient to use an app to get a routine prescription and subsequently submit it to a pharmacy for delivery, conceivably getting information without leaving home (Li, 2014). A third advantage, this time of social media, is that it provides marketing and information opportunities, as well as opportunities for more outreach to the community (Moorhead et al., 2013).
While smartphones enable data to be moved more quickly, this movement must also be combined with safeguards to protect sensitive data, as easier flow of sensitive data is a distinct disadvantage. This may involve things like encryption, for example, but such safeguards are necessary to maintain a health care provider's HIPAA requirements. The same holds true for other…
HHS.gov (2015) Guidance materials for consumers. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved March 19, 2015 from http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/index.html
HIPAA (2007). Subtitle B -- Requirements relating to health care access. Retrieved March 19, 2015 from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2007-title45-vol1/pdf/CFR-2007-title45-vol1-part164.pdf
Li, K. (2014). Health smartphone applications on chronic disease monitoring: Development and regulatory considerations. The University of Hong Kong. Retrieved March 19, 2015 from http://hub.hku.hk/bitstream/10722/206932/1/FullText.pdf?accept=1
Milholland, K. (1994). Privacy and confidentiality of patient information: Challenges for nursing. Journal of Nursing Administration. Vol. 24 (2) 19-24.
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