Nursing student on social media

Nursing students and nurses are exposed to large amounts of sensitive patient information daily. While it can be tempting to post about your day on social media as other people do, you have to be cautious not to expose someone else’s personal health information. Otherwise, you could face severe consequences for HIPAA violations.

What is HIPAA?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It’s a federal law that created national standards for protecting patient health information from being disclosed without prior authorization from the patient.

If there is a violation of HIPAA, it is the healthcare provider’s responsibility to inform the patient. This includes any breaches of their health data, whether from a cyber security attack or a health professional sharing their details on social media.

HIPAA and Social Media: Everything You Need to Know

While HIPAA was created before social media, its rules extend to all social platforms. It clearly states what health institutions (and their employees) can and can’t share in person or online.

Suppose you post the personal information of a patient online. In that case, you are facing a fine and potentially losing your license. Compliance, even online, is essential for patients and the institution you work for.

It is only acceptable to post a patient’s health information if you have been granted express permission from the patient. 

Real-Life Examples of HIPAA Violations

You might be surprised to learn how easy it is to violate HIPAA on social media. Here are four real-life examples to remember the next time you post about work on your social media profiles:

  1. Posting patient information, even if you leave the patient’s name out.
  2. Sharing a picture that accidentally identifies a patient.
  3. Sharing photos of patients or medical documents without patient approval.
  4. Even if posted privately, it is a HIPAA violation.

When in doubt, don’t post. It’s not worth the trouble you could cause to yourself, the patient, and your employer.

What To Do If You’re an RN and Violate HIPAA

Suppose you inadvertently violate HIPAA policy on social media. In that case, you are going to need a lawyer who is well-versed in HIPAA and your state’s board of nursing. This is where RN Guardian can help. Our lawyers can help you navigate the process and keep you from paying hefty fines or losing your job. We understand what’s at stake, and we want to help.