Over the years we have seen advancements in the world of technology that have brought many changes to our lives. In the field of health care, technology, especially communication technology has been used for both good and bad reasons. The use of mobile devices like iPhones, BlackBerrys and iPads by healthcare providers to exchange information with patients is a trend that is growing very quickly. Lives have been saved through this platform. Accessing reliable information within a short period makes a great difference. According to Luxton, et al . 2011, a doctor can direct a simple emergency procedure that needs to be done to save a patient’s life. A patient in such a situation would have lost their life before reaching the hospital but survives because of the phone call or text message. That is one of the great differences that communication technology has brought. However, the use mobile devices during medical practices are a rising ethical concern. According to medical surveys, at least 83% of all the physicians own a cell phone. In every four doctors, three use smartphones frequently during their working hours. This paper looks at the impact of social media as well as that of smartphones in delivering health care in various institutions.
The webs, social media, together with other mobile technologies are being utilized directly in the provision of patient care. Patients benefit a lot from these through close monitoring and personal disease management tools provided by these platforms. Many individuals benefit from the information they find on the internet about an illness that is affecting them. Organizations like Mayo clinic offers online medical guidance which can help many people to know how to treat a certain disease. Many coins will be saved when this method is applied. Money and time which could have been used to visit the doctor are utilized for a different purpose ( Cain, 2011). However, lack of communication barriers and limited privacy in social media presents a significant danger in ethical damage.
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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act outlines that the privacy of any patient should not be violated in any means during medical practice by health care providers. The act which was established in 1996 requires that all health care institutions including hospitals and clinics to work within the privacy standards provided by the HIPAA. The patient’s data should not be exposed to the public at any time. All medical information regarding a patient should be safeguarded at all times and can only be known to the parties concerned; thats is the patient and his or her family. Disclosing private information to the public is a legal and an ethical crime as asserted by Cain, J. (2011).
Electronic protected health information can be easily leaked when mobile phones are being used. Mobile devices store data either on the external memory card or in the inbuilt memory. Restricting access to the data stored in phones is difficult. Due to this fact, they stand a very high chance of allowing unauthorized disclosure of a patient’s information. Data can be exchanged without the consent or awareness of the owner by another user. The small size of these devices also makes them vulnerable to theft. You can easily misplace them and lose them. Sometimes you even forget them in awkward places. Their light nature makes them difficult to know when you don’t have them. Anyone can access the information on the phone or tablet and breach a patient’s privacy. A survey conducted in the U.S. showed that most privacy violations adding up to 66% were as a result of phone theft.
PCs and laptops are better as compared to mobile phones because clinic and medical officers are more likely to use the institution's property than their own. That means that they will leave the devices in their respective offices and it is difficult for anyone to access the information on these machines. It unlikely that medical professionals will use phones that is employer-issued in the health bodies. The employer will not see the need of purchasing new phones while the professionals have their own and can serve the same purpose. When a phone lacks a password, it presents a high risk of illegal information access. Most people do not encrypt data thus retrieving and sharing of data by unauthorized persons is an easy task. Insecure Wi-Fi networks and cellular networks also present a significant risk of being compromised.
The HIPAA rule allows the exchange of information between health providers and their patients via different electronic platforms like email. However, the law requires them to use caution and reasonable safeguards in the act. Risk assessment should be conducted from time to time on mobile phones to ensure they are not transferring personal information. They should be properly authenticated and encrypted. Security breach protocols for cell phones that are being used to handle patient’s information should be properly established and updated at all times. Clinicians should also be educated on different ways of evading data breaches. They should also be enlightened on the existing fines and violations of the HIPAA laws.
In the scenario from the excerpt, I would go with the fourth ending where the authorities are investigating illegal exposure of the celebrity’s pictures, and there is a case filed against the hospital. Being sure that my friend was not responsible for the selling the pictures, I would report that I had taken the photos and left the phone at my workplace. I would insist that someone must have stolen it and the only way to find out who is responsible is by tracking my phone. That way there is a possibility that one person will be punished instead of the whole hospital. However, I would face a high penalty for taking the photos in the first place. I should have made sure that I had secured the photos with a password or pin to prevent such an incident from happening. All nurses and doctors in the hospital should be denied the privilege of having their phones when working so that they are not tempted to do such a thing.
The employment of Smartphone’s and tablets in the healthcare setting enhances productivity, fastens the response rate and increases access to information. Conversely, the devices have a negative impact. There are times you explain your ailments to the doctor only to notice that he or she is busy checking out a Facebook page. Your pain doubles by experiencing such an incident. To make the situation worse, they even try to tell you about what the Facebook users are talking about. You spend a lot of precious time in the room and get out very annoyed. You may find nurses taking personal calls and talking for hours while patients are waiting to receive services. Smartphone’s are an advantage as well as a disadvantage in the medical setting. They should only be used to better the services that are being given to the patient. For instance, in providing vital patient information when they are away from the hospital or advising a patient about a prescription. Using the phone for personal reasons should be avoided ( Boulos, et al. 2011).
In conclusion, nurses and other health providers will continue to use Smartphone’s and social media to communicate to patients. The way things are going, a tremendous increase might even be registered. The mobile devices provide a very convenient platform for health providers to converse with their patients. They can also get access to relevant medical records easily due to the user-friendly nature of the communication devices. They are easy to carry and travel with to any place. The only way to avoid losing valuable information to thieves is by ensuring that patient information is encrypted at all times and that anti-malware software is always updated. Medical providers should also be responsible and make sure that they do everything in their power to prevent exposure of a patient’s private information to the public.
Boulos, M. N. K., Wheeler, S., Tavares, C., & Jones, R. (2011). How smartphones are changing the face of mobile and participatory healthcare: an overview, with example from eCAALYX. Biomedical engineering online , 10 (1), 1.
Cain, J. (2011). Social media in health care: the case for organizational policy and employee education. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy , 68 (11), 1036.
Luxton, D. D., McCann, R. A., Bush, N. E., Mishkind, M. C., & Reger, G. M. (2011). mHealth for mental health: Integrating smartphone technology in behavioral healthcare. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice , 42 (6), 505.