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Privacy and Confidentiality of Patients’ Personal Health Information

What ethical principles are violated when the breach of patient information privacy occurs at the hands of a nurse or another healthcare professional?

The HIPAA privacy rule requires the healthcare providers included under this rule to use appropriate safeguards for the protection of personal health information’s privacy. It requires them to set limits and conditions related to use or disclosure of such information without the patient’s authorization. This rule has also given the patients specific rights like requesting a copy of their health records, examining them and requesting any corrections. This rule applies to the health plans, healthcare clearing houses as well as the healthcare providers that conduct certain transactions electronically.

 Every healthcare professional must familiarize himself with the privacy rule of the HIPAA. It is because both privacy and confidentiality of personal health information are important ethical and legal concerns in healthcare.   When a nurse or other healthcare professional willfully or carelessly uses or discloses a patient’s personal health information in an irresponsible manner, it is a breach of both the concerns. It is the healthcare professionals’ duty to keep this data confidential and use it within the prescribed limits and conditions.

There have been several legal and technological changes in the healthcare system during the recent years. So, at some points confusion may occur regarding the use of personal health information. Healthcare professionals may unknowingly violate the privacy and confidentiality concerns at some points. Whether done unknowingly or knowingly, it constitutes a violation and therefore all nurses and healthcare professionals must adhere to the principle. Healthcare providers must make their nurses and staff aware of the legal responsibilities related to HIPAA.

It is especially important in the case of nurses who come across personal health information a lot on a daily basis. It is common to get comfortable with such information. The result can be neglect of policies and confidentiality concerns. Apart from it the technological advancements can also help at willful dissemination of personal information against the law and policies. So, the healthcare providers must review the privacy section of HIPAA. It will help them find areas where they can better protect Personal health information confidentiality.

Workload and stress are also important factors that may lead to neglect of privacy policies. The use of technology and workload in the healthcare profession and nurses’ jobs has increased. It is also a factor that may cause violations. The best way is to train the nurses and other healthcare professionals to protect patients’ personal data. They must be trained to actively protect the confidentiality of such data. Providers should create a culture and environment that considers protection of patients’ health information a priority. In these days increased legal scrutiny has also resulted in higher pressure on the nurses and providers related to health information privacy and confidentiality.