Hipaa and the Use of Cell Phones Analysis

Introduction

The healthcare industry is always looking to introduce new technology so that they can expedite, improve client services and lower costs. With the introduction of the new technology, one needs to consider the impacts of the technology and how it may violate a patient’s privacy and care. The technologies that seem to have the most impact are smartphones and social media. Some examples of social media are Snapchat, Facetime, Skype, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to name a few. Today in our healthcare system, smartphones have become second nature. Smartphones can help to provide easy communication between the patients and their doctors, providing better care. Patients can book appointments with their respective doctors with ease as well as receive their test results and medical records via smartphone now too.

Social media has created a platform to get health care easily and at a reduced cost. By using Facetime or Skype, a patient can speak with a doctor or even use these services to call for emergency services. Those were some of the good points of social media, now we are going to be looking at the fact that there are legal ramifications that go along with these forms of social media such as professional ethics, confidentiality, security as it relates to the security required for their personal data and finally, the patient’s right to privacy.

HIPAA requirements and the use of cell phones

There is a section of HIPAA that deals specifically with the use of mobile phones and the delivery of health services. This includes any device that receives, transmits or stores PHI (Protected Health Information). HIPAA states that mobile devices that have been adopted for use in the medical field should be secured and the risk to be hacked should be little (Sneiderman & Ackerman, 2014). With these safeguards in place, the risk of their personal protected information falling into the wrong hands. The use of any devices that put the patients information at risk, should be discontinued immediately.

The healthcare providers need to take into consideration that other applications may have access to the medical database when installing an application. Then they will forward that information received through a third party to either the client or possibly another provider. Installing such an application by the health service provider is solely their responsibility (Lyles et al, 2014). And they also do so at their risk. When medical personnel do so, and a patient’s protected information is leaked, a lawsuit can be filed against the medical personnel in a court of law. Medical personnel and providers alike need to take this into consideration when communicating and passing information about the client amongst themselves that they should be using an application that has been verified and safe by their regulating body before sharing the information.

The ending of the scenario

Knowing you had taken some pictures of the lead singer of your favorite band makes you feel less guilty for having missed the concert due to your work schedule. You decide you want to rub in your best friends face that you got to meet him in person and touch him up close and personal. You even snap and send a few pics to her figuring no harm, no foul would come of it since she has been your best friend since you were both 12 years old. When your best friend sees the pictures, she thinks it is a good idea to post them to Facebook with the hashtags #Getwellsoon and #HappyHospitalPics and #Hesgonnabeokay. Not only that, she also decided it would be a good idea to send them to a few of her friends using another social media app called WhatsApp (Karasz et al, 2013). The pictures spread like wildfire and in just an hour or so, the hashtags wishing the musician a quick recovery are all over the internet. Meanwhile, at the hospital, things have begun to escalate and the nurse who was attending to the musician was going to be under investigation and serious scrutiny.

It was obvious that the pictures had originated in the hospital, therefor the HIPAA regulations committee was conducting an immediate investigation with the help of the hospitals upper management (Davenport, 2015). Investigating will help determine who was responsible for the blatant breach of patient confidentiality, removing the blame from the hospital and placing it squarely on the individual responsible. The phones of all medical staff were collected and were being held pending investigation. Hearing this news from coworkers, the nurse responsible for taking the pictures is now worrying that she may be in trouble as the pictures she had taken are in her photo gallery. As she reaches to her nightstand, she realizes her phone is missing. She realizes that she will be in major trouble as she is sure the phone was left behind in the patients room and her photos are on the phone. Her biggest fear now is she is may be facing jail time if it is discovered that the innocently snapped photos that have now gone public can be traced back to her.

Mitigation of the scenario

To mitigate the scenario and prevent it from ever happening ever again, the HIPAA regulatory committee has imposed new rules and regulations that called for minimal, emergency only use of phones during their shift. If for whatever reason, the healthcare provider needs to have a phone to make consultation calls, they are more than welcome to use the hospitals landline (Davenport, 2015). By imposing such measures, they will help reduce the chances of personal smartphones from being used, therefor reducing the chances of a clients protected medical and personal information being leaked. In addition to limiting the use of personal cell phones and devices, the regulatory committee has applied for a grant through the Department of health to increase funding for hospitals, allowing them a larger budget to purchase the latest technology for effective communication within and outside the hospital.

With the latest technology at hand, updated with the latest security systems installed the staff could communicate personal patient information with the knowledge that the information shared would be fully protected against hackers.
In drawing the conclusion to the scenario, the nurse who was found responsible for the leaked client information should be held accountable and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Prosecuting this employee for breach of patient information will deter other medical personnel from participating in such actions in the future (Sneiderman & Ackerman, 2014). By going through the mitigation and investigative processes, the clients at this hospital, past, present and future will be aware that their personal information will be safe from digital leakage.
Advantages and disadvantages of using smartphones and social media in healthcare.

With all the advanced technology in smartphones, they are quickly becoming an integrated part of the healthcare sector. Many providers can communicate via applications uploaded to smartphones about a client. Integration of smartphones has provided them with efficiency and up to the minute status reports for their clients (Lyles et al, 2014).
Smartphones range in size but overall are somewhat small in nature allowing for them to be carried easily in pockets of most clothing also allowing for easy communication within the healthcare community to be set up. The use of smartphones allows for hospital personnel to communicate via encrypted email to relay important information to other healthcare personnel. At a certain point the medical personnel may be unsure of the equipment needed, but by using smartphones, they can quickly send images to verify and vice versa to enable them to achieve a common goal of success (Davenport, 2015).

However, the coming up of smartphones and its use in delivering services has come up with various shortcomings. In the current generation, the use of smartphone has brought about the addictive factor due to their use regarding social media (Karasz et al, 2013). Users are mostly on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp communicating on irrelevant issues in most scenarios. Healthcare service providers have lost their concentration while delivering their services due to the overuse of the gadgets.
Any and all information that is found within a healthcare system is considered to be personal and classified between the medical staff and the client. For confidentiality of the information it is limited for use over a smartphone in that the healthcare providers can easily leak information to social media in cases of patients who are considered public figures (Davenport, 2015).

Conclusion

As you can clearly see from the paragraphs above, there are both pros and cons for the use of smartphones in the healthcare field, making it extremely important to limit their use to professional use only. Healthcare providers need to obey strictly to the guidelines that will allow them to provide quality services to clients whom are seeking their medical services. To prevent a breach of privacy for the client, it is important to inform all healthcare providers just what is required of them. To ensure these guidelines are followed by all medical personnel, there should be ongoing and updated training followed up by assessment of the medical service providers to assure they are aware of any changes that have been set in place.

References

Davenport, C. (2015). Analysis of PDAs in nursing: Benefits and barriers. Retrieved January 26, 2015.
Karasz, H. N., Eiden, A., & Bogan, S. (2013). Text messaging to communicate with public health audiences: how the HIPAA Security Rule affects practice. American journal of public health, 103(4), 617-622.
Lyles, C. R., Harris, L. T., Le, T., Flowers, J., Tufano, J., Britt, D., … & Ralston, J. D. (2014). Qualitative evaluation of a mobile phone and web-based collaborative care intervention for patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes technology & therapeutics, 13(5), 563-569.
Sneiderman, C. A., & Ackerman, M. J. (2014). Cellular radio telecommunication for health care: benefits and risks.

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