Do you know your HIPAA knowledge? What information can you share about your patients online?
As a nurse, you must be careful what you say about your patients and where you say it. We are all familiar with HIPAA law and
most of us know what we can-and-can’t say offline, but what are the online rules?
It is important to omit the following patient identifiers when discussion patients online.
2. All geographical subdivisions smaller than a state, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code,
and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code, if according to the current publicly available
data from the Bureau of the Census: (1) The geographic unit formed by combining all zip codes with the same three initial digits
contains more than 20,000 people; and (2) The initial three digits of a zip code for all such geographic units containing 20,000 or
fewer people is changed to 000.
3. All elements of dates (except the year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date,
discharge date, date of death; and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age,
except that such ages and elements may be aggregated into a single category of age 90 or older;
4. Phone numbers;
5. Fax numbers;
6. Email addresses;
7. Social Security numbers;
8. Medical record numbers;
9. Health plan beneficiary numbers
Make no mention of a patients age. In particular, if your patient is over the age of 89, you cannot reference that.
I guess that’s because people in their 90s are a small and more easily identified population.
Refrain from using admission and discharge dates.
Can I write about my patients online?
You can write about specific patient encounters, but always respect your patient’s privacy.
If telling a story can helpful educationally, then you may write about your individual experience providing nursing care.
You can include details of each patient encounter, but remember to leave out all of the patient’s identifiers.
Don’t be so specific that the details can be associated with any individual patient. You can even change some of the
details of the story to protect your patients privacy.
Just remember that you are the patients advocate and in caring for them, they put all their trust in you. This includes trusting
that you won’t go and air their private information to others.
Never be afraid of HIPAA, just stick to the rules and you will be fine