Ethical Considerations in Internet Use of Electronic Protected Health Information

Caregivers, patients, and their family members are increasingly reliant on social network websitesfor storing, communicating, and referencing medical information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule seeks balance by protecting the privacy of patients' health information and assuring that this information is available to those who need it to provide health care. Though federal and state governments have created laws and policies to safeguard patient privacy and confidentiality, the laws are inadequate against the rapid and innovative use of electronic health websites. As Internet use broadens access to information, health professionals must be aware that this information is not always secure. We must identify and reflect on medical ethics issues and be accountable for maintaining privacy for the patient. KEYWORDS. Autonomy, beneficence, confidentiality, electronic health records, ethics, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, Internet, medical information, nonmaleficence, online, patient privacy, protected health information, social network.

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