Protected Health Information Essay

Protected Health Information Essay

What is protected health information (PHI)?

Healthcare professionals rely massively upon patients’ information to provide individualized, evidence-based care. For example, information about an individual’s demographics, medical histories, tests, lab records, and insurance coverage inform care processes and decisions. Since patients’ information is a valuable component of the current healthcare landscape, protecting it from unauthorized access and unethical sharing is essential. According to Isola & Al Khalili (2022), the Health Insurance Probability and Accountability (HIPAA) defines protected health information (PHI) as “any health information that can identify an individual.” In this sense, covered entities and business associates, including hospitals, insurance companies, and healthcare providers, are responsible for protecting patients’ information from demographic identifiers, medical records, and biometric information such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and facial images. The need to protect patient health information narrows down to three concepts: privacy, confidentiality, and security.

Information Privacy, Security, and Confidentiality

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What are privacy, security, and confidentiality?

Although data privacy, security, and confidentiality are essential concepts of data management, it is essential to understand their differences. According to Hebda et al. (2019), privacy entails the patient’s right to determine how healthcare professionals collect and share information. Confidentiality is the ethical and legal obligation for healthcare professionals to obtain consent before disclosing patient information. Finally, information security entails safeguarding PHI against threats to its availability, integrity, and inadvertent disclosure (Hebda et al., 2019). It is essential to note that healthcare professionals can intentionally or accidentally compromise information privacy, confidentiality, and security policies by failing to adhere to essential guidelines for protecting patient information. For instance, the widespread use of technology in healthcare has exacerbated the situation by increasing incidences of data security, privacy, and confidentiality violations. For example, healthcare professionals can unintentionally leak patients’ information on social media and fail to submit a written explanation when sharing information through social media and other online platforms. These incidents can lead to multiple ramifications for patients and healthcare professionals.

Importance of Interdisciplinary Collaboration to Safeguard Sensitive Electronic Health Information

Although healthcare professionals are responsible for safeguarding information privacy, confidentiality, and security, they cannot achieve this objective singlehandedly. Instead, embracing interdisciplinary collaboration enables them to implement various data safeguards. An interdisciplinary team of senior leaders, physicians, nurses, informaticists, and IT experts can effectively implement administrative, technical, and physical safeguards. According to Kruse et al. (2017), it is possible to safeguard patient information by implementing various strategies such as access control, entity authentication, data encryption, workstation security, staff training, and disaster planning. Further, conducting audit trials, installing radio frequency identification devices, and hiring chief information security officers are interdisciplinary approaches to protecting patient information.


What evidence of social media usage and PHI do interprofessional team members need to be aware of?

Healthcare professionals should be aware of the potential ethical and legal implications of intentionally and inadvertently violating data privacy, confidentiality, and security while using social media. For instance, they should understand the types of sanctions imposed by HIPAA on organizations and professionals who violate data privacy policies. For instance, violations of HIPAA’s privacy rule attract monetary policies ranging from $100 to $50000 based on a tiered structure. Organizations that violate HIPAA privacy rules can incur $1.5 million in the form of the annual maximum penalty. Equally, healthcare professionals should be aware of the number of nurses who lost their jobs and licenses because of unethical social media usage. Wofford (2019) argues that 50 care professionals, including nurses at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, lost their jobs in 2019 after unethically reviewing patients’ medical records. This incident is an ideal example of the potential ethical, professional, and legal implications of violating HIPAA’s privacy rule.

Finally, healthcare professionals should understand evidence-based practices for reducing data confidentiality, privacy, and security breaches, mainly social media usage. According to HIPAA Journal (2022), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) reviewed the guidelines regarding social media usage by healthcare professionals to include the following requirements: the establishment of clear policies regarding the use of social media platforms and ensuring that healthcare professionals understand how HIPAA related to social media use, educating and training employees on the recommended approaches for social media use to avoid inadvertent violation of HIPAA privacy rule, and explaining the possible implications of HIPAA social media violations to all healthcare professionals.

Other evidence-based guidelines for effective use of social media platforms by healthcare professionals are monitoring organizational social media accounts and communications, discussing with patients before disclosing their PHI, and developing an effective reporting system to allow healthcare professionals to report any potential HIPAA violations. These strategies should complement other physical, administrative, and technical safeguards.


Hebda, T., Hunter, K., & Czar, P. (2019). Handbook of informatics for nurses and healthcare professionals (6th ed.). Pearson

HIPAA Journal. (2022, January 12). HIPAA social media rules. HIPAA Journal.

Isola, S., & Al Khalili, Y. (2022, February 2). Protected health information. StatPearls Publishing.

Kruse, C. S., Smith, B., Vanderlinden, H., & Nealand, A. (2017). Security techniques for electronic health records. Journal of Medical Systems41(8).

Wofford, P. (2019, March 18). Jussie Smollett case: 50 Hospital workers fired for alleged HIPAA violations.



Prepare a 2-page interprofessional staff update on HIPAA and appropriate social media use in health care.

As you begin to consider the assessment, it would be an excellent choice to complete the Breach of Protected Health Information (PHI) activity. The activity will support your success with the assessment by creating the opportunity for you to test your knowledge of potential privacy, security, and confidentiality violations of protected health information. The activity is not graded and counts towards course engagement.

Health professionals today are increasingly accountable for the use of protected health information (PHI). Various government and regulatory agencies promote and support privacy and security through a variety of activities. Examples include:

Meaningful use of electronic health records (EHR).
Provision of EHR incentive programs through Medicare and Medicaid.
Enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules.
Release of educational resources and tools to help providers and hospitals address privacy, security, and confidentiality risks in their practices.
Technological advances, such as the use of social media platforms and applications for patient progress tracking and communication, have provided more access to health information and improved communication between care providers and patients.

At the same time, advances such as these have resulted in more risk for protecting PHI. Nurses typically receive annual training on protecting patient information in their everyday practice. This training usually emphasizes privacy, security, and confidentiality best practices such as:

Keeping passwords secure.
Logging out of public computers.
Sharing patient information only with those directly providing care or who have been granted permission to receive this information.
Today, one of the major risks associated with privacy and confidentiality of patient identity and data relates to social media. Many nurses and other health care providers place themselves at risk when they use social media or other electronic communication systems inappropriately. For example, a Texas nurse was recently terminated for posting patient vaccination information on Facebook. In another case, a New York nurse was terminated for posting an insensitive emergency department photo on her Instagram account.

Health care providers today must develop their skills in mitigating risks to their patients and themselves related to patient information. At the same time, they need to be able distinguish between effective and ineffective uses of social media in health care.

This assessment will require you to develop a staff update for the interprofessional team to encourage team members to protect the privacy, confidentiality, and security of patient information.

To successfully prepare to complete this assessment, complete the following:

Review the infographics on protecting PHI provided in the resources for this assessment, or find other infographics to review. These infographics serve as examples of how to succinctly summarize evidence-based information.
Analyze these infographics and distill them into five or six principles of what makes them effective. As you design your interprofessional staff update, apply these principles. Note: In a staff update, you will not have all the images and graphics that an infographic might contain. Instead, focus your analysis on what makes the messaging effective.
Select from any of the following options, or a combination of options, the focus of your interprofessional staff update:
Social media best practices.
What not to do: social media.
Social media risks to patient information.
Steps to take if a breach occurs.
Conduct independent research on the topic you have selected in addition to reviewing the suggested resources for this assessment. This information will serve as the source(s) of the information contained in your interprofessional staff update. Consult the BSN Program Library Research Guide for help in identifying scholarly and/or authoritative sources.
In this assessment, assume you are a nurse in an acute care, community, school, nursing home, or other health care setting. Before your shift begins, you scroll through Facebook and notice that a coworker has posted a photo of herself and a patient on Facebook. The post states, \”I am so happy Jane is feeling better. She is just the best patient I’ve ever had, and I am excited that she is on the road to recovery.\”

You have recently completed your annual continuing education requirements at work and realize this is a breach of your organization\’s social media policy. Your organization requires employees to immediately report such breaches to the privacy officer to ensure the post is removed immediately and that the nurse responsible receives appropriate corrective action.

You follow appropriate organizational protocols and report the breach to the privacy officer. The privacy officer takes swift action to remove the post. Due to the severity of the breach, the organization terminates the nurse.

Based on this incident\’s severity, your organization has established a task force with two main goals:

Educate staff on HIPAA and appropriate social media use in health care.
Prevent confidentiality, security, and privacy breaches.
The task force has been charged with creating a series of interprofessional staff updates on the following topics:

Social media best practices.
What not to do: Social media.
Social media risks to patient information.
Steps to take if a breach occurs.
You are asked to select one or more of the topics and create the content for a staff update containing a maximum of two content pages. This assessment is not a traditional essay. It is a staff educational update about PHI. Consider creating a flyer, pamphlet, or one PowerPoint slide (not an entire presentation). Remember it should not be more than two pages (excluding a title and a reference page).

The task force has asked team members assigned to the topics to include the following content in their updates in addition to content on their selected topics:

What is protected health information (PHI)?
Be sure to include essential HIPAA information.
What are privacy, security, and confidentiality?
Define and provide examples of privacy, security, and confidentiality concerns related to the use of technology in health care.
Explain the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to safeguard sensitive electronic health information.
What evidence relating to social media usage and PHI do interprofessional team members need to be aware of? For example:
How many nurses have been terminated for inappropriate social media use in the United States?
What types of sanctions have health care organizations imposed on interdisciplinary team members who have violated social media policies?
What have been the financial penalties assessed against health care organizations for inappropriate social media use?
What evidence-based strategies have health care organizations employed to prevent or reduce confidentiality, privacy, and security breaches, particularly related to social media usage?
Your staff update is limited to two double-spaced content pages. Be selective about the content you choose to include in your update so you can meet the page length requirement. Include need-to-know information. Omit nice-to-know information.
Many times people do not read staff updates, do not read them carefully, or do not read them to the end. Ensure your staff update piques staff members\’ interest, highlights key points, and is easy to read. Avoid overcrowding the update with too much content.
Also, supply a separate reference page that includes two or three peer-reviewed and one or two non-peer-reviewed resources (for a total of 3–5 resources) to support the staff update content.
Additional Requirements
Written communication: Ensure the staff update is free from errors that detract from the overall message.
Submission length: Maximum of two double-spaced content pages.
Font and font size: Use Times New Roman, 12-point.
Citations and references: Provide a separate reference page that includes 2–3 current, peer-reviewed and 1–2 current, non-peer-reviewed in-text citations and references (total of 3–5 resources) that support the staff update\’s content. Current means no older than 5 years.
APA format: Be sure your citations and references adhere to APA format. Consult the Evidence and APA page for an APA refresher.
Competencies Measured
By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and scoring guide criteria:

Competency 1: Describe nurses\’ and the interdisciplinary team\’s role in informatics with a focus on electronic health information and patient care technology to support decision making.
Describe the security, privacy, and confidentially laws related to protecting sensitive electronic health information that govern the interdisciplinary team.
Explain the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to safeguard sensitive electronic health information.
Competency 2: Implement evidence-based strategies to effectively manage protected health information.
Identify evidence-based approaches to mitigate risks to patients and health care staff related to sensitive electronic health information.
Develop a professional, effective staff update that educates interprofessional team members about protecting the security, privacy, and confidentiality of patient data, particularly as it pertains to social media usage.
Competency 5: Apply professional, scholarly communication to facilitate use of health information and patient care technologies.
Follow APA style and formatting guidelines for citations and references.
Create a clear, concise, well-organized, and professional staff update that is generally free from errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

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