Essay on Education on HIPAA Violation for Staff

Published: 2021/11/09
Number of words: 668

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, was enacted by the US Congress to protect employees’ insurance coverage when they change or lose their jobs (Hader & Brown, 2010). The act also has provision to ensure patients’ privacy and confidentiality of identifiable health information. HIPAA compliance training is critical as it helps employees understand what HIPAA is and why it is so important in health care. This paper creates a scenario that violates HIPAA and discusses what went wrong. It likewise proposes a procedure that would deter similar scenarios from occurring in the future.

One well-established scenario that violates HIPAA is a hospital employee posting pictures of clients on Facebook. An oncologist in the hospital sees a famous musician. The oncologist asks for a selfie and immediately posts it to her public Facebook account. The oncologist writes, “Check out who came in for an appointment with me at the hospital.” Within a few hours, the spouse of the musician calls hysterically. The spouse’s call is followed by a call from the musician’s attorney.

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This is a clear violation of HIPAA. It is a violation because the client did not allow or permit the doctor to post the picture (McKnight & Franko, 2016). The hospital could also be held accountable since the doctor was acting within the scope of her employment (Lifchez et al., 2012). More importantly, the musician can file a complaint with the United States Office of Civil Rights. Upon filing the complaint, the government will be required to investigate or enforce action against the practice. Likewise, the doctor may be asked to delete the picture or take disciplinary actions against her.

Over 1 billion people use social media networks. This means that a significant number of people can see any health information shared on networks such as Facebook. If health care personnel are well trained on HIPAA compliant social media policies and potentially hazardous mistakes, HIPAA violations could be discouraged altogether (Moore & Frye, 2020). Hospital employees should be taught the dos and don’ts of social media and HIPAA compliance. Under HIPAA, a violation may include an impermissible use or disclosure of personal health information (Moore & Frye, 2020). A typical example of this case involves posting verbal gossip about a patient to unauthorized people even if the patient’s name is not disclosed, sharing pictures or any other personal health information without the patient’s consent, and sharing seemingly innocent pictures, including workplace lunch, which happens to have visible patients’ files.

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Moreover, it is essential to note that the oncologist’s scenario is a policy issue. A well-established procedure or policy should deter such situations from occurring in the future. A suitable policy should push employees to leave mobile phones or any other gadgets with cameras or devices that can record voices in the changing room. The policy should also allow employees to use the hospital’s network when sharing confidential health information with authorized personnel. Likewise, to effectively limit such scenarios and other HIPAA violations, the policy should require regular training. This will ensure that employees are kept up to date with the changing nature of the act. Lastly, the policy should ensure the formation of a compliance department, which would help the hospital follow the HIPAA guidelines. A compliance department will help protect the hospital from potential lawsuits.


Hader, A. L., & Brown, E. D. (2010). Legal briefs. Patient Privacy and Social Media. AANA journal78(4).

Lifchez, S. D., McKee, D. M., Raven III, R. B., Shafritz, A. B., & Tueting, J. L. (2012). Guidelines for ethical and professional use of social media in a hand surgery practice. The Journal of hand surgery37(12), 2636-2641.

McKnight, R., & Franko, O. (2016). HIPAA compliance with mobile devices among ACGME programs. Journal of medical systems40(5), 129.

Moore, W., & Frye, S. (2020). Review of HIPAA, part 2: limitations, rights, violations, and role for the imaging technologist. Journal of nuclear medicine technology48(1), 17-23.

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