Medical Records Privacy and HIPAA Legislation: What you need to know

The
importance of HIPAA in the age of social media due to the fact that, when it
was enacted, it was several years before social media networks such as Facebook
were launched.

As
a result specific there were no HIPAA social media rules were in place to
govern them. However, there are HIPAA laws and standards that were applicable
apply to social media use by healthcare organizations and their employees in a
general sense. Healthcare organizations must therefore put in place a HIPAA
social media policy to reduce the risk of privacy violations.

Note:
get a full rundown of what HIPAA is
here.

The first rule that is important when it comes to
using social media in healthcare is to never disclose protected health
information via social media channels. The second important rule is to never
share protected health information via social media.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule outlaws the use of PHI on
social media networks. That includes any text about particular patients as well
as images or videos that could result in a patient being recognized. PHI can
only be included in social media posts if a patient has given their authorization,
in writing, to allow their PHI to be used and then only for the purpose
specifically referred to on the consent form.

Social media channels can be implemented for
posting health tips, details of events, new medical research, biographies of staff,
and for marketing messages, provided no PHI is included in the posts.

In 2017, 71% of all Internet users used social
media websites. The reach of social media networks combined with the simplicity
of sharing information means HIPAA training should include the use of social
media. If employees are not specifically guided on HIPAA social media rules it
is highly likely that breaches will occur.

Guidance on HIPAA should be provided before an
employee begins working for the company or as soon as is possible after an
appointment. Refresher training should also be conducted at least once a year
to ensure HIPAA social media rules are not disregarded.

In most instances, the HIPAA violations on social
media lead to eventual in disciplinary action against the employees concerned,
there were many terminations for violations of patient privacy, and in some
cases, the violations resulted in criminal charges. A nursing assistant who
posted a video of a patient in underwear on Snapchat was fired and spent 30
days in jail. It is not only employees that can be punished for violating HIPAA
Rules. There are also severe penalties for HIPAA violations for healthcare
outfits as well.

The Department of Health and Human Services’
Office for Civil Rights has published guidance on HIPAA social media
regulations for the general public, covering the specific aspects of HIPAA that
apply to social media networks. A HIPAA compliance checklist for social media
can be seen on the HHS
website
.



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