Working in a busy, and sometimes crowded healthcare environment, we often overhear conversations about patients in some unexpected places like the elevator or the cafeteria. What can we do to prevent unintentional disclosure of confidential patient information?

First, we need to understand what the “Privacy Rule” means, how it impacts our practice, and use it to identify opportunities to better protect patient confidentiality

According to US Department of Health and Human Services, the HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.  The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients’ rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections.

As nurses, it is our duty to protect the well-being of individuals under our care. Protecting the integrity of the nurse-patient relationship and patient rights is a sacred trust. If you happen to be in these situations, exercise precautionary measures, and remember that HIPAA violation can have serious consequences.

  1. Medical records mishandling. Printed medical records or even printer locations must be kept away from public view.
  2. Lost or stolen devices. If you have laptops, iPad, smartphones, and other devices that are provided by your employer that may contain PHI (protected health information) make sure that safeguards such as password protected authorization and encryption are in place. Report the loss immediately to your respective authorities to aid recovery of such device and prevent data leakage.
  3. Social Media. Always keep in mind that posting patient photos, even a human body part on social media is a HIPAA violation. It is a breach of patient’s privacy. You may remember a story about four nursing students who posed with the placenta on Facebook. They were expelled for “lack of professional behavior”.

For more information, visit or contact HIPAA directly http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/index…

Contact Our Experienced Texas Nurse Lawyers Today for Legal Guidance

If you or someone you know has been approached by the BON for disciplinary action or have more questions on the BON process, contact The Law Firm of Yong J. An and speak to a Texas Nurse Attorney directly at (832) 428-5679, call or text 24/7.