How Nurse Leaders Help Ensure Patient Confidentiality

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Doctor of Nursing Practice

In 2015, Congress endorsed the Medicare Access and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) Reauthorization Act (MACRA), which in part called for meaningful information use reinforced by value-based care provider reimbursement models. [1] Health information technology (HIT) infrastructure streamlines the delivery of treatments only with the in-depth information provided by electronic health records (EHRs).

HIT is an amalgamation of the development and creation of the storage systems that house, store, and protect EHRs and other medical data. Nurse leaders use these systems to improve the quality of services, lower health care costs, and reduce medical errors. The technology has transformed and improved the way that nurse practitioners deliver services across all disciplines and throughout the treatment continuum.

Promoting Population Wellness with Knowledge

Chief nursing informatics officers (CNIOs) develop organizational HIT frameworks in partnership with nurse leaders. [2] CNIOs assume the important responsibility of educating nurse leaders on health information technology. Nursing informatics officers ensure that their peers understand HIT policies and procedures so that they can confidently and effectively fulfill important duties as corporate officers.

As organizational executives, CNIOs stay abreast of the latest developments and best practices regarding health information technology. These professionals are a critical conduit between health information technology developments and top organizational leaders.

Improving Service Delivery for Patients and Care Providers

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 provides government funding to support EHR implementation throughout the United States health care system. [1] Over half of all American care provider organizations registered for the HITECH-related meaningful use program by 2012.

Nurse leaders can access electronic health records any place and at any time. EHRs aid them in making competent and informed treatment decisions and facilitating faster and safer health care services.

Privacy, Security, and Electronic Health Records

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule regulates how care providers handle sensitive patient information. It outlines federally mandated protection measures concerning specific and discernable patient information.

The Privacy Rule encourages, but does not require, providers to give patients a choice as to whether appropriate health care professionals can access their personal medical information. Medical professionals might use the information for operational activities such as billing or delivering treatments. Although, there are some laws, such as HIPPA, that require care providers to obtain written patient authorization before sharing sensitive medical data.

The Healthcare Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996

HIPAA establishes nationwide standards regarding EHRs, health plans, mass medical information management, and care provider conduct when handling sensitive electronic patient records. [3] Under this rule, patients gain more control over the management of their medical details. HIPPA requires care providers to comply with safety measures that protect the privacy of patients’ health information. The law also limits what information care providers can share without patient consent.

Patient Information Privacy in Health Care

Nurse leaders deploy many methods to protect patients’ personal medical information. [4] Two patient record handling methods, however, are basic tenants of any nursing practice: awareness of one’s surroundings and proper document handling procedures.

Awareness of one’s surroundings, also known as situational awareness, spans all caregiving-related duties and represents a particularly vulnerable security leak if ignored. Discussing patient medical information is a routine nursing responsibility that creates many opportunities to accidentally reveal private patient details. HIPAA regulations allow minimal leniency in this regard, so long as practitioners take reasonable steps to protect patient information. Such steps might include maintaining an appropriate, low volume when discussing patient information and securing technology devices by using screen privacy filters.

Physical items that contain patient details represent another significant privacy vulnerability. Therefore, nurses are careful not to leave hard copies of sensitive patient information unattended. In fact, it’s a best practice to secure patient information in locked storage when it’s not needed in the immediate future. Additionally, practitioners make sure that record storage areas are locked and secure when not in use. When a physical document has outlived its usefulness, nurses destroy the hard copy using officially designated handling procedures, such as shredding the expired document or depositing it in a locked bin for secure disposal later.

When handled correctly, patient medical information can greatly improve the quality of service for individuals and populations. Using this information, nurse leaders and academic researchers perform detailed studies and unearth otherwise elusive opportunities for improvement. As information transparency moves toward becoming the norm, United States care provider organizations will need highly qualified nursing professionals who have earned the doctor of nursing practice credential and are empowered to deliver top-tier medical services.

Learn More

Health care is a dynamic and ever-evolving field, and more is now expected of nurse leaders. In fact, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has called for a doctoral level education to become the requirement for advanced practice nursing. Earning an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) puts MSN-credentialed nurses like you at the forefront of the industry — prepared for leadership, nurse education, patient care, and to shape future policies and procedures in health care.


[1] TechTarget
[2] HealthLeaders