The privacy and confidentiality of medical information is a right of patients which healthcare organizations and providers must ensure through prevention of any breach (Vodicka et al., 2013). This is supported by legislative requirements of laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (Cannon & Caldwell, 2016).

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Institutions protect Internet-based patient information and promote patient privacy through ensuring that confidential medically related information is also shared with those who are in an appropriate position to need to know. An example of how institutions implement this is by enforcing a patient confidentiality policy. Such a policy might advise staff not to communicate personal medical information to persons other than the patient and persons authorized by the patient, or to post information about patients to personal social media accounts. Another example is the security which is used to protect information systems which contain confidential patient information such as electronic medical records.

The privacy of a patient can be violated by staff, other patients or visitors of patients. Often this occurs by accident, such as a message with private information that is sent to the wrong party. It can occur when the visitors of a patient or nurses post information about their day which includes identifying information about a patient.

Nurses can protect patient privacy when using the Internet by never mentioning a patient’s identity or providing identifying details when posting on the Internet on digital documents which could end up on the Internet. This would include personal social media account postings, the findings of academic research, and the sharing of information and documentations using electronic means. Nurses must also have sufficient skill in the use of various information systems which contain private patient data that they do not inadvertently breach the security of this information when using email, messaging systems, EMR or other informatics.


  • Cannon, A. A., & Caldwell, H. (2016). HIPAA violations among nursing students: Teachable moment or terminal mistake-A case study. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(12), p41.

  • Vodicka, E., Mejilla, R., Leveille, S. G., Ralston, J. D., Darer, J. D., Delbanco, T., … & Elmore, J. G. (2013). Online access to doctors’ notes: patient concerns about privacy. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(9), e208.