Tag Archive for: Kansas Nursing License Defense Attorney

Nurses Must be Careful of Privacy Violations and Social Media

Every healthcare professional is aware of the ramifications of disclosing patient information in a world where the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) imposes severe penalties for breaches of the confidentiality requirement. However, as social media becomes more integrated into the lives of professionals of all ages, nurses may begin to make mistakes.

In today’s world, over-sharing has become a fact of life. Invitations to people to be friends on Facebook or follow on Twitter may be extended to individuals who otherwise would have been professional acquaintances. This may lead nurses into a trap where the requirement to keep a patient’s private information confidential seems less rigid because the patient has shared the information with a circle of friends and followers in which the healthcare professional is included. Disclosures of information that still is confidential may lead to severe professional consequences, including the risk that a nurse’s license may be suspended or revoked.

When HIPAA first became the law in the mid ‘90s, it codified many of the confidentiality and nondisclosure laws that existed in various states, as well as healthcare facilities, addressing the privacy rights of patients. The impact was immediate and nurses faced a myriad of legal problems for violations of HIPAA, including civil lawsuits, employer sanctions, nursing board disciplinary actions, and potential criminal charges, depending on the severity of the disclosure and breach of privacy rights. Often, the negative consequences occurred when the nurse accessed or disclosed health information along with information that identified the patient. These issues were particularly problematic when the nurse was treating a celebrity patient or a co-worker where the issues of privacy were less clear.

Today, there are new pitfalls with social media. When a nurse accepts a “friend” invitation, the line between the professional relationship and the personal one becomes blurred. In addition, the use of online social networking sites may lead a nurse to share patient information in the process of developing professional ties with other nurses. However, the disclosure of the information, even without obvious patient identifiers, may lead to liability. It is important to remain aware of the nature of sharing information on the Internet, where it is widely disseminated rapidly and remains accessible indefinitely.

A nurse should be able to make use of the professional tools that are available through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter as there are many opportunities to share knowledge and exchange practice tips. Often, professional organizations will make use of these websites to create interactive forums. Therefore, a nurse does not have to abstain from the use of all social media, but should post information with a clear understanding of the dangers of misusing these tools. In addition, a nurse should be very careful about entering into a quasi-social relationship with a patient by accepting a friend request or other social media invitation.

If a nurse has shared information and faces accusations of privacy violations, it is critical to contact an experienced nursing license defense attorney as soon as possible in order to create an effective plan to negotiate an early resolution to the potential disciplinary action and criminal charges.

The Sanger Law Office Provides Effective Professional License Defense

Nurses provide invaluable services to many people every day. Frequently, the behavior that opens a nurse up to liability and potential disciplinary actions is not undertaken with any malice, but merely is the result of an overly casual view of the nurse/patient relationship. If you are a nurse who finds yourself facing an investigation into your actions with regard to disclosure of patient information or other potential violations, it is important to contact the experienced nursing license defense services of the Sanger Law Office. Danielle Sanger will work with you to minimize the consequences on your career. Your first meeting will be a free and confidential consultation so that you can explore all of your actions. To schedule an appointment, please call (785) 979-4353.