HIPAA: The Ins and the Outs

August 13, 2015

Hello friends,

I hope all of y'alls day was lovely. I know I had a nice relaxing day after a busy night of work previously. 

What is HIPAA?
So hipaa stands for health insurance and portability  and accountability act. It is a law designed to ultimately protect patient's privacy.

What does hipaa include?
Per hipaa guidelines, every patient is entitled to privacy and confidentiality. This means that all their medical information is protected and kept private.

What are patient identifiers?
Patient identifiers is what allows a by-stander to know who you are talking about. This include names, birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, medical record numbers, images, etc.

How does this affect nursing students?
Hipaa violations are very serious and you should always be aware of your surroundings when talking. I have had a previous clinical instructor be in an elevator with other nursing students and overheard them talking. Of course the students did not know she was an instructor for another school. The school was notified. 

So now what?
Take the necessary steps to ensure that you always maintain patient privacy. I know you will be excited about watching a cool procedure and want to post it on your facebook, but stop! You will have an opportunity to share with your clinical group without violating patient privacy. The rest of the world does not need to know. 

Brittney Wilson, The Nerdy Nurse, further mentions 18 patient identifiers off limits here. She also mentions that yes you can blog about your patient experiences as long as nothing can be identified. A key to avoiding releasing information is by focusing on the educational learning experience of the story and not the actual details. 

At my nursing school, I have had a scare with hipaa. The previous year I had tweeted that I held a baby for 30 minutes at clinical and it was great. Of course I was excited about having a great clinical day and wanted to share. I thought I had removed all identifying information from my tweet and never once said the hospital I was at, but my Dean did not agree. Luckily nothing serious happened and I do not understand how that even violated hipaa. But what I did learn was to always triple check before posting anything that does not benefit my work. Rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours to post anything and check with professors if you are unsure.

Hope that helps!

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