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Nursing and Health Care Informatics Ethics and the Law

The use of health information technology (HIT) in health care organizations has transformed patients’ care in many positive ways. Nurses use HIT to provide quality care to patients through proper interpretation and evaluation of patients’ data (Croll, 2010; Withrow, 2010). However, the use of HIT has resulted in many ethical and legal issues as a result of unauthorized access to patients’ health information (Layman, 2008). It is unethical for health care personnel or any other person to obtain and use patients’ health information for other reasons other than providing health care (Layman, 2008). Such actions are illegal and are punishable. It is required that a high degree of confidentiality be maintained when dealing with patients’ health information. The Hippocratic Oath has been used to encourage physicians to uphold confidentiality when dealing with patients’ data (Croll, 2010).

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Ethical issues

Recently, a celebrity was admitted to my health care organization when she presented with labor pains. Her health information was entered into the electronic health records system by the personnel on duty. Unfortunately, a staff member unethically revealed private information about the celebrity to the public. The patient’s rights of privacy were violated by the personnel. In another hospital, it was reported that two DJs pretended that they were Princess Kate’s relatives. They phoned Princess Kate’s nurse who was taking care of her after she gave birth at the hospital. The nurse gave them all the private medical information they wanted to know about Princess Kate. A few minutes later, Princess Kate’s medical information was broadcast to the whole world on the internet by DJs. The unethical disclosure of the patient’s private medical information was against a health care professional ethics. The nurse who disclosed Princess Kate’s medical information was overcome with guilt, and she committed suicide.

Potential liabilities of the ethical issues

The International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) has developed a code of ethics to be followed by health care professionals and to guide them in acting ethically regarding patients’ electronic health information (Hjort, 2007). The IMIA Code of Ethics outlines the principles for measuring health care professional conduct. In addition, it provides the general public with information and principles of ethical parameters that are geared towards shaping the behavior of health care professionals. The staff members in the two ethical issue cases violated the IMIA Code of Ethics by acting against the principles of information-privacy and disposition, openness, accountability, and security. The staff members violated the rights of the patients by disclosing patients’ health information to the public without their approval. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) outlines potential criminal consequences for health care professionals who violate patients’ health information security and privacy guidelines (Hjort, 2007; Withrow, 2010). The staff members could be liable to pay a maximum fine of 50,000 USD or face 1-year imprisonment, or both. If it could be established that the staff members disclosed the private health information for purposes of sale or personal gain, then the fine could go up to 250,000 USD and 10 years of imprisonment. The punishments are intended to teach other health care professionals lessons so that they would not violate patients’ rights of health information privacy and security in the future. Privacy in HIT refers to legal requirements of persons accessing patients’ health care information (Croll, 2010). Privacy guidelines ensure that health professionals use personal health information and maintain privacy. Security in HIT refers to a collection of procedures aimed to prevent access to patients’ data by unauthorized persons (Hjort, 2007; Croll, 2010).

References

Croll, P. (2010). Privacy, security and access with sensitive health information. Studies in health technology and informatics, 151(1), 167.

Hjort, B. (2007). AHIMA Report Addresses Evolving Role of Health Care Privacy and Security Officers. Journal of health care compliance9(3), 47-48.

Layman, E. J. (2008). Ethical issues and the electronic health record. The health care manager, 27(2), 165-176.

Withrow, S. C. (2010). How to avoid a HIPAA horror story. Healthcare financial management: journal of the Healthcare Financial Management Association64(8), 82-88.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, July 24). Nursing and Health Care Informatics Ethics and the Law. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/nursing-and-health-care-informatics-ethics-and-the-law/

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