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Medical information is very sensitive. Thus, it should be well-protected and accessible only for persons who have right to see it. The exposure of patients’ medical information to other people against their will violates their rights except cases when it is really necessary (Davis & LaCour, 2016). This essay provides an assumption, according to which I am a designated privacy officer in a healthcare institution and respond to various questions related to information monitoring in this facility. The questions raised in the essay focus on information monitoring aspect. They include the procedures for enhancing information protection, sanctions for violating information protection policies, and ways of encouraging nurses to report security and privacy breaches.

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Introduction

Medical information is tightly connected with the issue of privacy. Therefore, it should be secured, and only certain people must have access to it. No one can expose patients’ private medical information to other people against their will since it violates their main rights (Davis & LaCour, 2016). Ordinarily, private medical information should be accessible for the individuals offering treatment and patients themselves. The challenging part is that the information has to pass via different agents before reaching a physician attending a patient. This “circle” can include an attending nurse, a lab technician of a hospital, and other agents involved in the treatment process. The above-mentioned aspect depends on the type of ailment. It means that the healthcare providers have to be very careful when handling patients’ information and make sure that their privacy is protected. However, the information mechanisms used should not deter the medical practitioners from accessing important data concerning treatment of the patients (Grebner & Mattingly, 2016). This essay presents the ideas for improving medical information monitoring and protection from a privacy officer’s point of view.

Monitoring Procedures that I Would Develop

As a privacy officer, I would start from organizing the learning programs for staff. They will enlighten people on the need for protecting patients’ privacy by safeguarding information pertaining to their treatment. This process would include conducting well-planned training programs, which target all members of medical staff of the healthcare facility. During these training programs, the medical staff would be educated on the need for information safety. I would also routinely send healthcare professionals the emails to remind them about the knowledge acquired on trainings and gather relevant feedback on areas that need to be improved. In addition, I would conduct privacy rounds and check how the medical staff handles patients’ information (Davis & LaCour, 2016). Therefore, it would be possible for me to define whether the employees implement adequate information privacy measures.

The lack of adequate knowledge about information privacy is one of the reasons why some medical practitioners are unable to keep patients’ information privacy (Grebner & Mattingly, 2016). In order to make sure that the medical staff of the healthcare facility is aware of its responsibilities concerning information protection, I would use tracking and trending mechanisms. They would help to identify any incidents or unusual activities in the hospital. These mechanisms would include the identification of educational needs of the staff members and the use of results for developing advanced policies, procedures, and training programs on information protection. I would try to create a mechanism for monitoring access to electronic health records (Davis & LaCour, 2016). It would involve tracking access to health records for ensuring that the information is not used for disregarding patients’ right to privacy.

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In order to make sure that the adequate protection of information from all departments of the healthcare facility is reached, I would also invest in random audits of electronic health records access. These audits on the healthcare facility mechanisms of protecting information will be based on the prevailing situations. In this case, I would recommend the selection of audit criteria based on the departments that have a common risk of violating patients’ rights to privacy and information protection. I would also offer procedures for monitoring electronic health records to prevent unauthorized people from accessing patients’ records and flag every attempt of trying to access these records (Grebner & Mattingly, 2016). In this procedure, I would target the information related to high-profile patients and medical emergencies as well as data pertaining to patients who have not been seen in the facility before.

I would also develop procedures for reviewing how frequently the data is accessed and monitoring incidences, in which the information may be used for wrong purposes. The goal of these procedures is to monitor how medical staff accesses and utilizes the information. They should also check whether there are cases of uncharacteristic access to patients’ records. It is worth noting that there may be unauthorized attempts to access personal information from outside the healthcare facility (AHIMA, 2013). What is more, the facility may have multiple applications that can store, retrieve, and access electronic patients’ health information. I would, therefore, develop procedures that will enable the healthcare facility to keep appropriate users’ access information up to date (Grebner & Mattingly, 2016). It would concern even the employees who have left the facility and people who have changed their job roles. I would invest in electronic audit logs to make sure that all logs are secure, and only the authorized people have access to patients’ information

Sanctions for Policy Violation

The members of hospital staff are not allowed violating policies related to information protection and patients’ privacy. However, some employees may intentionally or unintentionally do it. In case a member of the staff of the healthcare facility violates any of the policies, one has to conduct thorough investigation to determine the contributing factors and the magnitude of a violation (AHIMA, 2013). The evaluation will be based on the sensitivity of the information, the scale of the negative influence of a violation on other members of the staff, the performance history of a violator, the number of people and the volume of data affected, the expenses of the facility, and the level of violator’s truthfulness during the investigation. After assessing the above factors, I would consider possible the implementation of the following sanctions:

i. Issuing first warning (verbal or written);

ii. Salary deduction for covering the expenses incurred;

iii. Demotion in case a senior member of staff is involved;

iv. Administrative leave without payment;

v. Immediate termination of employment;

vi. The requirement that the involved staff member has to attend and complete additional training on information protection among other sanctions, which the HR management of the healthcare facility recommends.

Tracking Each Point of Access to the Patient Database Including People Who Entered the Data

It is necessary to track patients’ database access points and monitor data input as well as trace who entered data in order to protect privacy. I would recommend the healthcare facility to invest in a modern and sophisticated information monitoring system that would be able to identify each point of access to the patients’ database and keep a record that can be retrieved and evaluated. The system should be able to identify the database access points (within and outside the facility), people who entered the information, and time, at which the data were entered into the system or accessed (Grebner & Mattingly, 2016).

Nurses Have Codes that Give Them Access Only to Their Units

This principle is appropriate because it will prevent data mix-up in the organization. In addition, it will be easier to conduct information monitoring audits and avoid violations before damage scale becomes too huge. Actually, the nurses from a certain unit of a hospital do not have reasons for having direct access to a database of another unit. For instance, the nurses from a maternity unit do not need direct access to a database of a communicable diseases unit. The opposite situation can increase the chances of information misuse, and it will be difficult to monitor the violations. If nurses from a certain unit want to access patients’ information from another unit, they just use the help of an intermediary and, therefore, are granted access to the databases they want (AHIMA, 2013). It should be done only in case the required information is essential for the treatment of a patient. The system should note who and why requested the information, a person who granted access to it, and a purpose, for which the accessed information will be used.

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A Visitor Accidentally Comes to the Wrong Unit Looking for a Patient and Asks a Nurse to Look What Unit the Patient is in

The information monitoring systems should allow nurses from different units to access basic information about patients’ identification but not their complete medical reports (Nass et al., 2009). Therefore, the nurses from various units can access identity information and direct visitors. The key information may include patient’s full name, contact details (address and telephone number), and other pieces of identification information. On the other hand, a visitor should be able to provide basic identification information about a patient he/she wants to see. Thus, it would be possible to guide visitors to the right units where they can find needed patients without accessing detailed information about people medication.

Encouraging Nurses to Report Privacy and Security Breaches

Many privacy and security breaches leave unreported because nurses and other medical practitioners do not want to implicate their colleagues. In addition, some nurses fear that they can be held responsible for reporting violations, which their colleagues conducted (Fowler, M. D. M., & American Nurses Association, 2008). The first approach that can be used for encouraging nurses to report privacy and security breaches is educating them on the damage from these breaches and how they can affect their careers. Once the nurses are aware of the negative impacts of patients’ privacy and security breaches, they become more willing to report them. Second, the nurses should be guaranteed privacy in reporting the breaches and should not be implicated afterwards (Nass et al., 2009). Nurses who have reported privacy and security breaches should be rewarded accordingly. It will encourage other employees to inform about further breaches as well. Generally, a favorable environment created in a healthcare facility will promote the willingness of nurses to report privacy and security breaches whenever they happen.

Conclusion

It is evident that information monitoring is a very important aspect of patients’ privacy assurance. The implementation of appropriate procedures for ensuring patients’ treatment information safety is the responsibility of a privacy officer of every healthcare facility. It also allows defending individuals’ right to privacy. Ordinarily, patients’ information should be made accessible for patients themselves and the medical staff responsible for their treatment process. A privacy officer of a medical institution must also make sure that the nurses observe policies established to prevent the misuse of patients’ data. This goal can be achieved through imposing strict sanctions for violation of these policies and encouraging nurses to report cases of privacy and security breaches in the hospitals.

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