Technology, especially the use of smart gadgets and social media, has revolutionized healthcare provision through improved patient outcomes, reduced costs, and timely delivery of services. Nevertheless, the use of such technologies also creates significant challenges concerning a patient's privacy and professional ethics (Hao & Gao, 2017). Medical practitioners may often find themselves in a dilemma while balancing the tradeoff between their professional limits and personal life on social media. Notably, sharing trendy stories, celebrity gossip, or contributing to various discourses are the norm of social medial platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, or Myspace. Therefore, a nurse may be intrigued about sharing certain information or images about their patient on such platforms as a form of entertainment and fun, which conflicts with professional limits and may attract legal suits (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2017). Therefore, by exploring patient privacy, legal issues, and professional ethics, one can identify how to effectively use social medial without causing any alarm.
HIPPA, Legal Regulations
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) outlines policies and guidelines concerning the use and sharing of patients' protected health information (PHI). It ensures that a patient's health information remains private and protected. Social media platforms and cellphones are great tools to improve healthcare delivery and advertise various services. For instance, social media can be used to enhance interpersonal relationships with clients or allow nurses to learn more about their patients' lifestyles to enable them to offer personalized care. Cellphones also enhance tracking of patients' health, especially those with chronic diseases such as diabetes. However, the information stored in such gadgets or platforms can harm a client if it is accessed by unauthorized people either through theft or sharing.
Therefore, healthcare providers and insurance companies are restricted from sharing information without a patient's authorization. Although there are no specific guidelines about social media usage, there are certain policies that are applicable to reduce privacy violations given the significant risk created by improved technology. Noticeably, HIPAA prohibits sharing protected health information on social media (Hao & Gao, 2017). The information may include texts about a patient's recovery, names, videos, images, or any other information that could make a patient be identified. Moreover, the restrictions apply to both the healthcare facility and its employees (Hao & Gao, 2017). In this case, if a hospital wants to use PHI on social media for advertisement or creating awareness, they must consult involved patients for their consent. The authorization must be obtained in writing and sharing of the information is limited to what is mentioned in the agreement. Hospitals or persons found guilty of sharing unauthorized information may be liable for the client's financial damages, compensate the clients for breaching their privacy, or both.
In this case, as the nurse on duty, sharing the celebrity's PHI would make me attract attention from my friends. Nevertheless, it is against professional ethics to not only share PHI but also take compelling pictures of patients without their consent (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2017). By engaging the act, I will be letting my personal life interfere with my professional code of conduct, which prohibits malicious use of health information. As a nurse, I am obligated to ensure that I safeguard patients' privacy to prevent any harm that might arise from exposing them. Additionally, if I decide to sell the information secretly, I will be infringing on the nursing code of ethics and my moral standing.
One of the possible endings is that I went home and shared about my night at work and how I did not feel bad for missing the concert because I got to meet the celebrity Jerod in person and even got his contacts. Since I would have the urge to show that I also had some sought of fun, I would end up posting Jerod on Instagram and Facebook. Given that it was my time, I would end up thinking that it is not wrong to post him on social media since not many of my friends would recognize him. In such a scenario, I would have infringed Jerod's privacy by exposing his health information online. Although many people from my friend circles may not recognize him, the image risks being shared several to others. According to Ventola (2014), information on social media spreads faster and may end up in the wrong hands causing harm to the victim.
Additionally, I would be ignorant to think that I can share the patient's information online because it is my time. I am also responsible for safeguarding the confidentiality of a patient's medical information and status unless they authorize otherwise. In case Jerod friends or family find the image offensive, they would launch a legal suit towards myself and the hospital. I would attract disciplinary actions from the management, which might even lead to work dismissal or heavy fines depending on the severity of damages perceived by the celebrity.
According to Ventola (2014), several methods can be applied in the hospital to minimize infringement and safeguard patients' privacy rights. Educating all employees concerning the HIPAA guidelines is essential in ensuring that they all understand the importance of safeguarding PHI. The above scenario presents a case of ignorance where a nurse is not aware of the damages such actions would inflict on the patient, especially a public figure like Jerod. Therefore, educating and training all employees on how to use cellphones and social media to promote health outcomes without infringing clients' privacy is indispensable in deterring such cases. Additionally, training employees on how to differentiate between their professional and personal life is essential in creating a boundary that deters the misuse of clients' information. In this situation, if I had vivid boundaries concerning my profession, I would not have shared the pictures on an unconscious patient to satisfy my personal needs. Noticeably, as a corrective measure, I would delete any unauthorized posts about Jerod to avoid exposing him to online harm. I would also issue apologies in writing to both Jerold, his family, and the hospital for engaging in unethical conduct.
Advantages of Using Smartphones in Healthcare
Cellphones and social media are useful tools in healthcare since they allow interactions with patients to facilitate better outcomes. For instance, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular complications, require close monitoring to ensure that healthcare interventions are achieved (McGonigle & Mastrian, 2017). In this case, physicians and nurses involve patients in promoting healthy behaviors through social media. Notably, they can create clips on how to cook healthy food, exercise, or use smart gadgets to monitor blood pressure. Social media also allows physicians to contribute to health discourses by joining online communities, listening to an expert, reading news articles, and developing professional networks, which enhance service delivery.
Disadvantages of Social Media
Contrary, social media can lead to infringement of patients' privacy rights, which may cause considerable damages. Poor handling of patient data in social media can also attract legal suits against nurses and physicians. Additionally, social media presents a high risk to concerning professional image damage towards an institution r an individual. For example, in the above case, if I posted the images, I would taint the hospital's public reputation.
Professional and Ethical Issues
Nursing ethics and professional code of conduct provide specific guidelines on the use of social media in healthcare. Firstly, people are supposed to maintain high levels of professionalism by not posting unauthorized medical information online. Secondly, they are obligated to follow HIPAA rules concerning patients' information safety and privacy. A research conducted by Hao and Gao (2017) showed that about 30% of nurses were not aware of any specific principles regarding the use of cellphones and social media. Therefore, hospitals should explain clearly concerning ethical standards concerning the use of technology.
Overall, upholding patients' data security and privacy is paramount in healthcare. The use of social media has multiple benefits in healthcare; nevertheless, it provides significant risks to patient privacy. Noticeably, social media platforms are compelling and might cause conflict among nurses concerning how to balance professional and personal lives online. In my case, I have learned that I can use the sites to increase healthcare outcomes without causing legal issues. Posting pictures on social media without the consent of the patients or their family is prohibited and against professional ethics. Healthcare facilities should train and educate their employees concerning how to handle PHI and avoid dilemmas while using the platforms.
Hao, J., & Gao, B. (2017). Advantages and disadvantages for nurses using social media. Journal of Primary Health Care, 1(1), pp. 1-3. https://scientonline.org/open-access/advantages-and-disadvantages-for-nurses-of-using-social-media.pdf
McGonigle, D. & Mastrian, K. (2017). Nursing informatics and the foundation of knowledge (4th edition). Jones and Bartlett Learning, Burlington: Massachusetts
Ventola C. L. (2014). Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Formulary Management, 39(7), 491-520. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103576/
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