Social Media And Personal Information Security

Social media is a growing technology that is vital to everyone’s daily life and it is getting bigger as time goes on. Social media is an extension of electronic media. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are three popular social media sites that communicate information quickly. With having smartphones and social media, it is really easy to innocently post something about your day that includes a patient. Protecting health care information online is the number one priority and the responsibility of the individual who is presenting this information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act establishes rules for sharing health care information. HIPAA creates rules for how patient information is accessed by providers, insurance companies, law enforcement, and the patient. When using any different outlets of social media, there are specific guidelines that need to be followed to protect patient information. In the fast-growing electronic communication world we live in, protecting patient information is important and nothing can really be deleted once it is posted for the world to see.

Katie Duke, a popular Instagram influencer and a celebrity nurse starring on a popular reality show worked at New York Presbyterian Hospital as an ER nurse. She posted a photo after a code of a messy but empty trauma room on her Instagram. There were equipment, towels, blood, and supplies lying everywhere. She posted the trauma photo because she wanted to show her followers the things going on in the ER. That same trauma room was used to treat a man that was hit by a New York City subway train. She captioned the photo “#ManVs6train.” Just hours after posting the image on social media, the nurse got a call from her superiors at New York Presbyterian. The hospital informed her that she was being let go after seven years working in the ER. Knowing your organizations policy and remembering your role on the scene is to help others, not the media.

Although Katie did not post a picture of a person or give a name, the caption “#Manvs6Train” gave out a lot of information. She shared the gender of the patient in the caption and how he was injured. Being hit by a train is pretty specific and it is patient information. There are strict standards and regulations when you sign that contract to become a nurse. HIPAA and The ANA Code of Ethics are now a part of your life. With Duke being such a highly influential person her nurses’ image and reputation was in the spotlight. Having posted that specific photo on Instagram not everyone sees what others see and not everyone speaks “hospital.” It is very easy for people to misinterpret things which opens the door for negative comments. These thoughtless actions can lead to a lot of negative PR for the hospital and with Katie having a high following people knew exactly what hospital she worked at and this could be detrimental to her reputation. Even worse, individuals could lead to legal action from patients claiming their privacy rights were compromised.

Inappropriate use of social media can lead to disciplinary action, which can negatively affect both a nurse’s career and his/her licensure. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient privacy and “The HIPAA Privacy Rule levies heavy fines and potential criminal charges on the unauthorized disclosure of individually identifiable health information by covered entities in oral, paper, or electronic form. The HIPAA Privacy Rule also includes a “safeguards standard” that requires covered entities to reasonably protect patients’ health information from unauthorized disclosure by using physical, administrative, and technical safeguards (Ventola, 2014).” HIPAA helps ensure the confidentiality of health information. Steep fines are set in place for violations of protected patient information. The fines created are large and are imposed per patient chart that is compromised and not per incident. “The fine could range from $100 to $50,000 per violation with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year (Ventola, 2014).” Due to a violation regarding HIPAA, if an investigation is taken place regarding the situation there are specific consequences the nurse could face for the violations.

I know that if I identify myself as an employee of my workplace, anything I post is considered as a representative of that workplace. As long as someone knows I am a nurse, they can look me up on a website and find out where I work. I understand her desire for trying to help people better understand the role of medical professionals, but this was the wrong way to go about it. It was just unwise and insensitive. The way I see it, anything you post online is no longer private. So sure, there were no staff or patients in the room, but if that picture got around the internet and any friends or family that knew the man saw the picture, they might not have felt so intrigued by 'the reality of ER in a major hospital.”

Since starting nursing school, I have made sure all of my social media accounts are made private and I get a notification to allow other people to post things onto my page. I have just found it easier to not post much and have made a conscious effort to think before I post anything. It is a situation that I never want to be a part of and being a nurse is a privilege and I am honor to be in this career field.   

07 July 2022
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