In the United States, there was a whopping 97% increase in the number of health records breached from 2010 to 2011… The number of patient records accessed in each breach has also increased substantially, from 26,968 (in 2010) to 49,394 (in 2011). Since August 2009, when the US government regulated that any breach affecting more than 500 patients be publicly disclosed, a total of 385 breaches, involving more than 19 million records, have been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services.

A large portion of those breaches, 39%, occurred because of a lost, stolen, or otherwise compromised portable electronic device—a problem that will likely only get worse as iPads, smartphones, and other gadgets become more common in hospitals. (CMAJ, 2012, p. E215).

Consider your own experiences. Does your organization use portable electronic devices? What safeguards are in place to ensure the security of data and patient information? For this Discussion you consider ethical and security issues surrounding the protection of digital health information.

To prepare

  • Review the Learning Resources dealing with the security of digital health care information. Reflect on your own organization or one with which you are familiar, and think about how health information stored electronically is protected.
  • Consider the nurse’s responsibility to ensure the protection of patient information. What strategies can you use?
  • Reflect on ethical issues that are likely to arise with the increased access to newer, smaller, and more powerful technology tools.
  • Consider strategies that can be implemented to ensure that the use of HIT contributes to an overall culture of safety.

Post an analysis of the nurse’s responsibility to protect patient information and the extent that HIT has made it easier or more difficult to protect patient privacy. Comment on any security or ethical issues related to the use of portable devices to store information. Assess the strategies your organization uses to safeguard patient information and how these promote a culture of safety. Describe an area where improvement is needed and one strategy that could address the situation.

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