Social may not always be appropriate. In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social
Media in a Healthcare Setting: We Can, but Dare We?

Amanda
Toljanic

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Chamberlain
College of Nursing

Social
Media in a Healthcare Setting: We Can, but Dare We?

            Imagine
you are being treated for an acute illness in a hospital or healthcare setting.
You had arrived at a hospital unconscious and were later informed of what occurred
during your time while unconscious. Regardless of your background and regardless
of the given illness, you are upset that you are in the hospital in the first
place and you would like nothing more than to get better quickly to resume your
daily life. After discharge, imagine hearing from a friend of a friend that
your picture and/or story had been shared to a social media platform that
hundreds of thousands of people have access to. I can only imagine that that
may be upsetting and possibly even embarrassing depending upon the situation.
Growing technology and social media make it very easy for individuals to share
their thoughts, feelings, pictures, and experiences with thousands of
individuals however, it may not always be appropriate. In any healthcare
setting it is important to keep your work and social/home life as two separate
entities. In reviewing a similar situation, we will continue to discuss the
issues of privacy in a healthcare setting and the use of technology and social
media in the workplace.

So, the answer
here is no, we dare not. Sometimes using smart phones and social media in a
healthcare setting can lead to a HIPAA violation. HIPAA, the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, is something that needs to be addressed
with caution and attention to detail. According to the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS), HIPAA was designed to advance the effectiveness and
competency of the healthcare system as a whole. With growing technology, the
government decided that they needed to adapt their standards to further protect
private health information (Department of Human & Health Services, 2017). HHS
created two HIPAA rules, the privacy rule and security rule. The privacy rule is
focused on the protected health information and how it is used and disclosed
while the security rule requires that healthcare professionals and facilities
follow proper protocol to protect the private health information such as
ensuring confidentiality of any protected health information (PHI) and ensuring
compliance among the facility and healthcare professionals (HHS, 2013). For any
violation of these HIPAA rules, the Office for Civil Rights can enforce a monetary
penalty that can range from “$100-$50,000 or more per violation” (Department of
Human & Health Services, 2013). HIPAA is a staple in the healthcare
profession and it is the nurses job along with all other healthcare
professionals to maintain the integrity of patients’ protected health
information.

            According
to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), nurses must avoid
disclosing confidential patient information in a variety of ways including but
not limited to: avoiding transmission of any patient-related image via
electronic media, avoiding sharing or posting any information or images about a
patient, avoiding identifying patients by name or post information that could
lead to identification of a patient, and avoid taking videos or photos of
patients on personal devices. There are many other guidelines nurses should
follow but most importantly, nurses should immediately report any breach of
privacy with the appropriate staff member in charge (NCSBN, 2011).

            The
situation provided in the assignment relates a direct violation of a patient’s
privacy, a HIPAA violation. For this situation, I chose the following ending “You
are the following nurse on the day shift and discover the night nurse’s phone
on the bedside table While trying to figure out to whom it belongs, you open
the phone and see the photographs taken the night before. Holy moly! What a
find, and nobody could trace you to the photos.” As stated earlier, we have
identified that this is a violation of the patient’s privacy and it needs to be
handled properly to avoid making matters worse. Had I been the nurse that found
the phone, I would immediately report it to my supervisor. It is wrong that the
pictures were taken in the first place and that is the first thing that should
have been done differently, but now they need to be secured or disposed of so
they do not get released to the public. If the pictures were to be posted or
found in the wrong persons’ possession, it could be reported to the Boards of
Nursing and possibly be investigated to find evidence of unprofessional or
unethical conduct. If the investigation finds that unethical or unprofessional
conduct did in fact occur, then the Boards of Nursing can reprimand the nurse,
require a monetary fine, or take away the nurse’s license temporarily or
permanently depending on the violation (NCSBN, 2011). The violation that the
nurse committed is very serious and has potential to escalate so I think it is
important for it to be reported to a supervisor in a timely manner and then
protocol needs to be followed to determine the consequences.

            Social
media and the use of smartphones can be both beneficial and detrimental in a
healthcare setting. One prime example of a disadvantage is using social media
to vent or post about a day at work or a certain patient, which can lead to releasing
too much information in which a patient could then be identified on social
media. Another disadvantage of smartphones and social media in a healthcare
setting is that it could be a distraction. In this day and age, many
individuals are glued to their cell phones so healthcare professionals may be
more concerned about what is happening on social media than they are about
caring for their patients. The use of social media in a healthcare setting brings
up many potential risks such as breaching patient privacy, distributing poor-quality
information, and violating licensing or legal issues (Ventola, 2014, pg. 491). However,
there are some ways that cellphone and social media use in a healthcare setting
can be beneficial, such as developing a professional network, providing health
information to a community, and increasing awareness on new health issues (Ventola,
2014, pg. 491). For example, there are many different applications that provide
educational materials about medications so nurses and other staff can refer to
their phone to find medication interactions, proper dosing, adverse effects,
and mechanism of action. Another advantage of social media use in a healthcare
setting is for marketing or providing educational materials. Many healthcare
systems provide educational materials on multiple social media platforms such
as posting embedded educational articles or videos on Twitter or Facebook as
shown by Johns Hopkins Medicine Facebook home page that lead you directly to
the article on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website (see link below).

            As
discussed above, it is very important to exercise caution when using a cell
phone or social media in a healthcare setting. What is most important is that
nurses and other healthcare professionals hold each other to the highest
standard in maintaining patient’s privacy and their protected health
information. As future nurses, we must act in professional and ethical manners
at all times and keep our patients and our own best interests in mind. If an
individual ever has to question whether something is appropriate or ethical,
there is a chance that it is not and they should contact a supervisor for
advice. One small lapse in judgement could lead to serious repercussions
including losing a nursing license. However, not all social media use is bad
and some may be beneficial in the workplace. These positive uses may be
researching educational materials, looking up medications, and managing time or
calculations as needed. Whenever a patient enters our healthcare setting, we
should immediately be focused on their health, their safety, their privacy and
rights, their improvement, and finally their discharge. Throughout their hospital
stay or healthcare visit, the patient should never have to worry or question
whether their health information is being protected and used only in a
professional manner.

 

References

HIPAA for Professionals. (2017,
June 16). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/index.html

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.).
Retrieved January 18, 2018, from

https://www.facebook.com/Johns.Hopkins.Medicine

National Council of State Boards of
Nursing (2011). A Nurse’s
Guide to the Use of Social Media.

PDF file.
Chicago, IL. Retrieved from https://www.ncsbn.org/NCSBN_SocialMedia.pdf

Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
(2013, July 26). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/laws-regulations/index.html

Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule.
(2013, July 26). Retrieved January 17, 2018, from

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/laws-regulations/index.html

Ventola, C. L. (2014). Social Media
and Health Care Professionals: Benefits, Risks, and Best

Practices. Pharmacy
and Therapeutics, 39(7), 491–520.

 

 

 

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