Protected Health Information

What is protected health information (PHI)?

Protected health information refers to health data created, received, stored, or transmitted for the provision of health care and falls within the entities and business associates covered by HIPAA (HIPAA Journal, 2018). According to HIPAA, protected health information is any past, present, or future information regarding the physical or mental health of an individual or the provision of care, transmitted or maintained electronically or in any other form. This information includes demographic data, patient medical history, lab results, insurance information or any other information that identifies a patient or facilitates the provision of care.

What are privacy, security, and confidentiality in relation to use of technology in health care?

Privacy refers to the patient’s right to the storage, retrieval, and sharing of their health information (Davis & LaCour, 2016). For example, patients have a legal right to privacy not to disclose to family members or other unauthorized personnel the type of medication they take. Security refers to specific administrative, physical, and technological efforts or controls put in place to safeguard or protect patient information. An example of this practice is requiring unique login credentials into a system containing patient information to uphold the confidentiality of the information. Confidentiality is a practice implemented to ensure the discretion of patient information. For instance, when receiving care in a hospital setting, confidentiality ensures that no matter who the provider, the patient’s information remains confidential and should not be shared with unauthorized persons.

Explain the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration to safeguard sensitive electronic health information.

Health IT security is a serious issue affecting millions of individuals, especially if security breaches occur. According to Ronquillo, Erik, Cwikla, Szymanski, and Levy (2018), data security is a real concern with the ability to lock down health systems and directly affect the delivery of care. Abouelmehdi, Beni-Hessane, and Khaloufi (2018) assert that the security and privacy of health data are important issues and healthcare organizations must implement security measures to protect their data. When it comes to data security, interdisciplinary collaboration is especially important due to access control and authentication issues, as well as patient privacy and confidentiality of information. Collaboration can bridge the gap between IT personnel and other health care providers and workers and enhance the security of sensitive electronic health information. For instance, the collaboration will bridge the knowledge gap for non-technical employees and ensure that they are aware of security measures to enhance the security of sensitive information.

What evidence relating to social media usage and PHI do inter-professional team members need to be aware of? 

Social media has several benefits to health care but as Stroehlein (2016) asserts, inappropriate use of social media can lead to problems such as nurses disclosing too much information, violating the privacy and confidentiality of patient information. Violation of social media policies according to the NCSBN (2018) include unprofessional conduct, unethical conduct, moral turpitude, mismanagement of patient records, breach of confidentiality, or revelation of privileged information. In case allegations based on these grounds, nurses may face disciplinary actions in the form of reprimand, sanction, monetary fine, temporary or permanent confiscation of licensure, or even a possible jail term. Divulging patient information can also cost the health care organization from a minimum fine of $100 per violation up to $50,000 (HIPAA Journal, 2015).

Consequently, considering patient confidentiality and privacy are critical to health care data, nurses need to safeguard patient information. As highlighted by Stroehlin (2016), some evidence-based strategies that have been put in place to prevent privacy, confidentiality, and security breaches include barring nurses from transmitting information that may violate patient’s privacy and confidentiality, restricting nurses from transmitting images related to the patient, and advocate for nurses to enforce and maintain professional boundaries while using social media.


Social media is here to stay, but it is important to understand the benefits and risks of social media when it comes to patients’ privacy, confidentiality, and security of their health data.


Abouelmehdi, K., Beni-Hessane, A., & Khaloufi, H. (2018). Big healthcare data: preserving security and privacy. Journal of Big Data, 5(1). 

Davis, N. A., & LaCour, M. (2016). Foundations of Health Information Management – E-Book. [Place of identification unknown]: Saunders.

HIPAA Journal. (2015). What are the penalties for HIPAA violations? Retrieved from

HIPAA Journal. (2018). What is Protected Health Information? Retrieved from

NCSBN. (2018). A nurse’s Guide to the use of social media. Retrieved from

Ronquillo, J. G., Erik, W. J., Cwikla, K., Szymanski, R., & Levy, C. (2018). Health IT, hacking, and cybersecurity: national trends in data breaches of protected health information. Jamia Open, 1(1), 15-19.

Stroehlein, M. (2016). Social Media and Nursing Today. Soj Nursing & Health Care, 2(2), 1-3.

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