Safeguarding Patient Information: Nursing Informatics Best Practices for Privacy and Security in Healthcare
The use of information systems in healthcare has continuously revolutionized healthcare practices for the better. The systems have facilitated evidence-based decision-making, fostered patient engagement, and assisted with operational management. As such, information systems have managed to reduce medical errors, improve the quality of services, and foster patients’ well-being. Nonetheless, the use of health information systems faces various challenges relating to security and privacy. Healthcare professionals are held accountable for using the system and protecting patients’ private information. Developing a policy delineating nursing informatics best practices is significant in maintaining patients’ safety and confidentiality by influencing necessary skills, behaviors, and ethical standards.
Information systems store patients’ protected health information (PHI), from patient diagnoses and medications, demographic factors, and family history to laboratory results. Policy development that facilitates information safety and confidentiality is essential to promoting overall patient well-being. For instance, the policy would foster patients’ autonomy, empowering them to make personal decisions and regulating how their personal information is used. Besides, unauthorized use and disclosure of personally identifiable information could result in patients’ stigmatization, embarrassment, and discrimination. Additionally, the policy would generate trust between healthcare providers and patients by assuring confidentiality of the information disclosed. This would induce effective collaboration where patients can disclose even their sensitive information. Last but not least, policy development would act as a guideline for the duties and responsibilities of healthcare providers.
Best Practices Definitions and Descriptions
Healthcare professionals are encouraged to adopt different best–suited practices that foster the security and privacy of patients’ health information. For instance, healthcare professionals should embrace secure practices outlined as acts that protect and safeguard health information and health information systems from unauthorized access. They include using strong passwords that are hard to crack, regular password changes, preventing unauthorized software installation, and access restrictions to physical ports and dubious websites. Healthcare professionals should also adopt data security practices that are defined as measures that safeguard patients’ records and computer programs from unauthorized users. They include encryption of computing and storage devices that access protected health information and protection of networks from hackers and unauthorized devices. Nurses should also adopt confidentiality practices defined by Rushanan as practices that help health professionals with access to patients’ records to hold that information in confidence. They include deeds such as taking the oath of Hippocrates and the Nightingale Pledge, which influence desirable behaviors.
Ethical standards are also essential in fostering nursing informatics best practices. They are outlined as values influencing desirable human conduct and practices. They encourage embracing honesty, integrity, trust, kindness, fairness, and respect. These qualities instill desirable values in healthcare professionals’ behavior, positively influencing their perception of protecting patients’ information from unauthorized access. According to Sulmasy, López, and Horwitch, ethical standards influence health professionals’ decision-making using ethical principles such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. They foster principles of decision-making that conform to the nursing informatics best practices.
Regulatory requirements also play an essential part in impacting nursing informatics best practices. They are defined as the rules and policies that govern healthcare practices. They include regulations such as obtaining a patient’s authorization to use or disclose their protected health information, limitations of the use of patients’ information due to other reasons rather than medical purposes, and allowing patients to view, manipulate, and request copies of their medical records. Such regulatory requirements are enforced by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), federal laws, State laws, and hospital practice rules. Licensure of healthcare professionals is also perceived as a regulatory requirement that assesses the knowledge and competence of health professionals.
Nonetheless, successful implementation of the informatics best practices policy demands a significant set of behavior from nurse leaders. The implication of their actions during policy integration should balance the tension between presenting quality services and promoting patients’ safety and privacy. It relates to the point that there are instances when adherence to patients’ privacy could deter the quality of services rendered by a service provider. Likewise, nurse leaders’ behavior should foster trust among healthcare providers and patients. It would encourage the adoption of the policy with minimal opposition. Nurse leaders’ behavior should also foster open communication since it would ensure that all concerns and opposing views regarding the policy receive sustained attention and are adequately resolved.
As per Fardellone and Click, nurse leaders should possess emotional intelligence, critical thinking, dedication to excellence, and professionalism to ensure policy adherence. Emotional intelligence would help nurse leaders to identify factors that are likely to hinder the adoption of the policy and develop ways to address challenges. On the other hand, critical thinking would enable nursing leaders to make coherent policy decisions and prioritize critical factors like the enhancement of quality of services and patients’ privacy. Dedication to excellence would ensure that nurse leaders focus on implementing the policy by deploying strategies to cater to individualized concerns and helping other healthcare providers understand their roles and responsibilities. Professionalism would ensure that all decisions related to the policy integration are justifiable, competent, and focused on promoting nursing informatics best practices.
In conclusion, developing a policy that influences nursing informatics best practices have been outlined as critical to guaranteeing the security and privacy of a patient’s health information. It has been ascribed to the point that unauthorized access and exposure to medical records could negatively affect patients’ well-being. The nursing informatics best practices that promote the security and privacy of a patient’s health information have been discussed regarding data security, patient confidentiality, ethical standards, and regulatory requirements. Behavior and skills required by nurse leaders for effective policy implementation have also been discussed, where they have been outlined as essential in guaranteeing policy adherence in a healthcare setting.
1. Fardellone, C., & Click, E. R. (2013). Self-perceived leadership behaviors of clinical ladder nurses. Nurse Leader, 11(6), 51-53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mnl.2013.05.016
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3. Rushanan, M. (2014). SoK: Security and privacy in implantable medical devices and body area networks. 2014 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. https://doi.org/10.1109/sp.2014.40
4. Sulmasy, L. S., López, A. M., & Horwitch, C. A. (2017). Ethical implications of the electronic health record: In the service of the patient. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 32(8), 935-939. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-017-4030-1