Protected Health Information and Social Media Use

Protected health information (PHI) refers to health records that HIPAA-covered institutions and their business partners produce, receive, keep, or transmit in connection with the delivery of health care services and the management of patient care. PHI, or ePHI in the area of digital patient data, is a common abbreviation for protected health information (“What is protected health information?” 2022).

While privacy safeguards a patient’s right to control the data that a healthcare institution gathers, keeps, and shares, confidentiality measures guard against the illegal use of data presented in the institution’s possession. The link between privacy requirements and the confidentiality types given to data may be understood as confidentiality controls ensuring that individuals and systems abide by those privacy responsibilities (Patel, 2019). The practice of preserving digital healthcare data throughout its full life cycle to defend it against alteration, loss, or illegal access is known as data security. Hence, the latter has a broader scope in comparison with privacy and confidentiality.

Interdisciplinary collaboration in terms of safeguarding electronic health information is essential. Professionals with different duties, backgrounds, and experiences work in conjunction to ensure that patients personal data is protected. For instance, a nurse obtains information from the client about their health. She keeps it confidential as the assigned physician with whom she discusses the patient’s state. This physician records the data electronically, and the server at which it will be kept is developed, checked, and secured by IT specialists in healthcare.

Healthcare organizations seem to impose various sanctions on interdisciplinary team members who have violated social media policies. These sanctions usually imply termination, monetary penalty, and license deprivation (depending on the severity of the breach in the social media framework).

According to a graded system, civil monetary penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule can range from $100 per breach to $50,000 per breach. The maximum fine each year is $1.5 million. Criminal sanctions carry a maximum fine of $250,000 and a maximum jail sentence of ten years (Nasiri, 2019).

It seems that there are three primary dimensions in which healthcare organizations work in order to safeguard electronic medical information (Kuse et al., 2017). The first dimension, administrative protections, covers strategies, including doing audits, appointing a chief data protection officer, and creating backup plans. This theme’s precautions are largely concerned with compliance with security processes and policies.

The second dimension, physical safeguards, focuses on protecting actual access to secure patient data using hardware and software accessibility, as well as the strategies discussed in administrative safeguards. The second most frequent reason for security breaches is a failure to maintain adequate physical security. Physical security measures include tools like desktop security, allocated security tasks, and physical access restrictions.

Technical protections, the dimension, deal with securing the networked information and communication systems used by health institutions. The organization must secure this particular aspect, given that most security vulnerabilities involve electronic media, typically laptops or other portable electronic gadgets. This dimension’s security strategies cover, but are not limited to, firewall, virus scanning, encryption, and decryption, along with authentication procedures.

Significant research has shown that 60% of respondents lack complete confidence in their institution’s ability to share information safely (HITC Staff, 2017). In the era of enormous data flows and free access to tons of information, patients are concerned about their privacy to a great degree. Hence, it is vital to contribute to the security development of patient-sensitive data – especially within the scope of social media.


HITC Staff. (2017). Infographic: The rise of medical data sharing & privacy concerns. HITC.

Kuse, C. S., Smith, B., Vanderlinden, H., & Nealand, A. (2017). Security techniques for the electronic health records. Journal of Medical Systems, 41(8), 127.

Nasiri, S. (2019). HIPAA and social media: What you need to know. Reciprocity.

Patel, V. (2019). A framework for secure and decentralized sharing of medical imaging data via blockchain consensus. Health Informatics Journal, 25(4), 1398–1411.

What is protected health information? (2022). HIPPA Journal.

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