In recent years, personal devices have become resourceful tools in all sectors, including the health care sector. Personal devices, especially smartphones, come with versatile capabilities that have contributed to their rapidly increasing use in health care. They have become an essential part of human lives, such that the trend is significant in the health care setting such that virtually all care providers, including nurses and physicians, make use of them. Studies have reported the prevalent use of mobile devices among health care professional (Mayer, Blanco, & Torrejon, 2019). Also, many patients resort to the internet, especially social media, to seek health care information while trying to meet their health care need that could support them emotionally. Besides, health care information has recognized this trend as an opportunity. They are increasingly adopting social media as a means of reaching patients and foster relationships with them and the general public. Besides, personal devices have enabled physicians to use social media to launch health care topics and discussions. The technology helps them to reach wider populations and attend to health care concerns of a large number of individuals. However, HIPAA has raised concerns regarding the use of personal devices with social medial in healthcare. The purpose of this paper is to examine the use of personal devices and social media in health care. That will include the advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of personal devices and social media in health care, and the associated HIPAA rules and regulations. Also, the discussion will include a scenario regarding the use of social media in health care and recommendations of actions that could have mitigated the circumstances associated with the scenario.
Advantages and Disadvantages Associated With the Use of Personal Devices and Social Media in Health Care
The use of personal devices and social media in health care settings is associated with several benefits and risks. Some of the main advantages and disadvantages are discussed below.
Personal devices with social media have foster professional networking. Personal devices and social media made the creation of online clinical communities for sharing ideas and gaining expert knowledge. With the platform care providers can network with their colleagues and communicate regarding matters of patient issues. Therefore, they serve as a supportive environment for health care professionals, especial those that sub-specialize (Smailhodzic et al., 2015). Additionally, social media contributes to the improvement of clinical education. Several studies have shown that social media has not only improved clinical students’ learning experience; it also increased their professionalism and their knowledge and understanding regarding clinical ethics (Hazzam & Lahrech, 2018). As mentioned earlier, health care organizations have been leveraging personal devices and social media for promotion - communicating with the target patient population and the community at large. Also, studies have shown that personal devices with social media foster patient care and patient education, improve interactions between the caregivers and patient, and created global networks for improving public health (Hazzam & Lahrech, 2018).
The use of personal devices and social media in health care is associated with risks that cannot be overlooked. One of the risks is the lack of quality and reliable information. Some authors that post medical information on social lack the credential to provide medical information. Most of them provide non-evidence-based information that lacks support from published studies, while some of the data is incomplete. However, evidence-based medicine discourages anecdotal reports, while social medial ted to promote them. Such incomplete information and information that lack support from research evidence mislead patients and result in deadly and legal consequences. Posting of unprofessional contents on social media is associated with several consequences. These include the breach of patient confidentiality and privacy, destruction of professional and organizational image, patient-health care provider boundary violation, and legal issues that could lead to licensing issues, such as suspension and revocation of license (Benetoli, Chen, & Aslani, 2019). The effort to mitigate the incidence and prevalence of the breach of patient confidentiality and privacy led to the establishment of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act HIPAA.
Social Media - HIPAA Rules and Regulations
Health care information privacy underlies the patient-physician interaction to protect personal health information. It is not only an ethical stand, but it is also a legal requirement spelt out by different laws and regulations, including HIPAA. The purpose of establishing HIPAA was to protect the privacy of caregivers and patients. HIPAA rules were established to ensure the security measures for adhering to privacy standards. They are meant for protecting an individual’s health information and set the conditions and limits for disclosing patients’ information patients did not authorize it.
The use of social media can result in the violation of the HIPAA rules. These include specific rules for protecting patient privacy and confidentiality on social media. The first HIPAA rule entails the nondisclosure of protected health information that includes past and present, including future health information of a patients' health condition. The rule prohibits the sharing of such information on social media. However, HIPAA permits health tip postings on social media, but no personal health information should be included (HIPAA, 2018). Common social HIPAA violations on social media that should be avoided include posting of patient’s images and videos without written consent from the patient and posting of information that could reveal in an individual’s identity. Other common violations include gossiping about patients and sharing of health care facility images that show the patient (HIPAA, 2018).
HIPAA Violation Scenario Associated With the Use of Social Media and Recommendations
HIPAA Violation Scenario - Client’s data is exposed to the media
Despite the establishment of HIPAA, care providers and health care organizations still violate the social media rules. That has led to substantial financial consequences for resolving the violations (HIPAA, 2018). One of the HIPAA reported violations associated with the use of social media involved a pediatric nurse in Texas Children’s Hospital. The nurse, including her colleagues, had the first encounter with a toddler that was diagnosed with measles. Therefore, she was excited to post it on Facebook. Her posting included her comment and the comments of her colleagues. Nevertheless, she did not include the child’s name. Consequently, the hospital had to fire her for posting personal health information, which was a violation of HIPAA (Shay, 2018).
Recommendations for the Use of Social Media and
HIPAA violations are preventable. Based on the scenario presented above, the pediatric nurse would not have posted the patient personal health information if she had full knowledge of HIPAA rules regarding patient privacy breaches. Additionally, she might not be aware of the consequences. If she had adequate knowledge of the rules and the consequences of violating HIPAA, she might not post the information. Therefore, my recommendation for mitigating the circumstances presented in the above scenario is that health care organizations should be providing training for their staff regarding the HIPAA rules associated with the use of social media. Besides, health care providers should be encouraged to update themselves regarding the rules. After all, HIPAA rules associated with the use of social media in health care and how health care employees can prevent HIPAA violations are available online (HIPAA, 2017 & 2018).
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Benetoli, A., Chen, T. F., & Aslani, P. (2019). Consumer perceptions of using social media for health purposes: Benefits and drawbacks. Health Informatics Journal, 25(4), 1661-1674.
Hazzam, J. & Lahrech, A. (2018).Health Care Professionals’ Social Media Behavior and the Underlying Factors of Social Media Adoption and Use: Quantitative Study. J Med Internet Res, 20(11), e12035.
HIPAA (2017). How Employees Can Help Prevent HIPAA Violations. Retrieved from https://www.hipaajournal.com/employees-prevent-hipaa-violations/
HIPAA (2018). HIPAA Social Media Rules. Retrieved from https://www.hipaajournal.com/hipaa-social-media/
Mayer, M. A., Blanco, O. R., & Torrejon, A. (2019). Use of Health Apps by Nurses for Professional Purposes: Web-Based Survey Study. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 7(11), e15195.
Shay, M. (2018). Texas Children's Hospital nurse fired after posting Houston toddler's positive measles results on Facebook. Retrieved from https://abc11.com/houston-measles-case-outbreak-health-department-texas-childrens-hospital/4088566/
Smailhodzic, E., Hooijsma, W., Boonstra, A., & Langley, D. J. (2015). Social media use in healthcare: A systematic review of effects on patients and on their relationship with healthcare professionals. BMC Health Serv Res 16, 442(2016), 1-14.