5 Jul 2022


How to Secure Protected Health Information (PHI)

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Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Essay (Any Type)

Words: 595

Pages: 2

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Nurse’s Responsibility and EHR 

For centuries, physicians have been held accountable for the protection of patients’ privacy and confidentiality. Nurses are held to similar standards of having the responsibility to maintain patients’ privacy and protecting their medical information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) grant nurses the responsibility to protect the patient information. Health information technology (HIT) has the potential to enhance the efficiency and quality of patient care by rendering information much readily available to care providers (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). However, it also creates considerable challenges in ensuring that information is secure and private. From tablets to laptops to desktop monitors at a nursing station, patient’s health information (PHI) is today easily accessible in the form of EHRs and can be displayed on more device screens at the same time (Goodman, 2010). This increases the risk of information theft through virtual hacking. As more patient’s information is gathered and accessed in digital formats, the risk of visual hacking is only expected to increase. 

However, the disadvantage is that it provides easy access to healthcare information to various entities like life insurance parties, third-party insurers and medical technology companies (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). In addition, the HIT allows the collection and storage of all medical information in the patients’ charts (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). Though this could be beneficial in areas like managing patient conditions, it can equally be detrimental. For instance, the dental department does not need to know about a patient’s gynecological information or history (Goodman, 2010). However, this information is included in the patient’s EHRs. 

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Ethical Issues Related to the Use of Portable Devices 

The use of portable devices like iPhones, Android phones, and iPads is a fast-growing trend among medical practitioners. In fact, studies estimate that at least one practitioner owns one mobile device and two out of every five nurses leverage both tablet computers and smartphones in their medical practice (Goodman, 2010). The increased use of these mobile devices for communication between nurses and patients raises concerns regarding the security of protected medical data. Particularly, the unauthorized disclosure of PHI is an ethical issue related to the use of these devices (Rothstein, 2010). This is simply because these gadgets store information on the gadget itself either within their onboard memory, a memory chip or the sim card. Therefore, mobile devices used by healthcare practitioners will always retain records of data within the device. Moreover, these gadgets may not restrict user access to information (Rothstein, 2010). Therefore, these gadgets have inherent, unique security risks as far as exchanging PHI is concerned. 

Strategies Used to Safeguard Patient Information 

Though my organization enables its employees to use mobile devices in delivering medical care, it has applied reasonable safeguard strategies to ensure patient information is protected. These strategies include appropriate administrating, technical and physical safeguards to guarantee the security, integrity, and confidentiality of EHRs. Administrative strategies include proper encryption, authentication, and assessing if practitioners are using personal mobile devices to exchange PHI (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). Physical safeguard strategy that our organization has implemented includes the use of remote shutdown tools to prevent data breaches by locking mobile devices remotely. The technical safeguard strategy includes encryption, which protects PHI from being transmitted between healthcare practitioners and patients. In addition, the organization uses biometric authentication tools to verify the individual using the device is authorized to access the PHI (Rothstein, 2010). 

An Area Where Improvement Is Needed 

Situational awareness or otherwise referred to as awareness of one’s environment is one area that needs improvement as it represents a particularly vulnerable security leak if neglected. One of the routine nursing responsibilities involves discussing patient medical information. This creates numerous opportunities to accidentally reveal private patient details (Hoffman & Podgurski, 2011). In this regard, the HIPAA gives minimal leniency. Therefore, reasonable steps must be introduced to ensure that practitioners protect patient information. Such steps may include maintain low volume when discussing patient details and using screen privacy filters to secure technology devices. 


Goodman, K. W. (March 01, 2010). Ethics, Information Technology, and Public Health: New Challenges for the Clinician-Patient Relationship.  The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38,  1, 58-63. 

Hoffman, S., & Podgurski, A. (June 06, 2011). Meaningful Use and Certification of Health Information Technology: What about Safety?.  The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 39,  77-80. 

Rothstein, M. A. (March 01, 2010). The Hippocratic Bargain and Health Information Technology.  The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 38,  1, 7-13. 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 16). How to Secure Protected Health Information (PHI).


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