28 Jul, 2017

Patient Privacy at Risk in a Digitally Centered World


In a world where technology is so prevalent, patient privacy may be at risk in the healthcare industry.

As technology develops, patients grow more concerned about their information being vulnerable.

Because of these concerns, health care professionals proposed that the AMA Code of Ethics includes these matters.

“The AMA guidelines for emailing patients—and the guidelines put forth on texting—emanate from a clear understanding that this is a brave, new world in which physicians and other professionals are managing confidential and often sensitive information.”

Learning how to properly integrate technology into the relationship between patients and doctors is a growing priority.

Mobile Devices

When doctors start to use mobile devices to carry out practice, ethical concerns come to play.

“Physicians and trainees frequently use their smartphones to access electronic textbooks, medical journals, decision-making and drug interaction apps, dosing calculators and more.” Wire AMA reports. 

When a provider starts to use their phones to communicate with patients, security risks emerge.

HIPAA Security Rule implements guidelines that work to eliminate ethical issues.

“With photographic and data transmission/storage capabilities, mobile devices present providers with new legal challenges, particularly maintaining HIPAA compliance.” Advisory reports. 

The risks that appear while using a mobile phone are:

  • Losing the device – The device can get in the hands of an unauthorized person.
  • Mobile device being stolen
  • Using unsecured wifi networks – Unsecured wifi networks put data at risk.
  • Virus concerns – could potentially breach the patient’s information.

So, as a provider what are the steps you can take to protect your mobile device and your patient’s rights?

Use a Strong Password

Putting authentication on mobile devices requires a password to be used for access.

This password is unique and personal to the user, making it difficult for unauthorized individuals to access information.

Form an Encryption

Encryption converts data into a form that is impossible to be read without a password.

This is especially important for healthcare providers because it completely transforms patients’ data to only be accessible exclusively.

You can use encryption by:

  • Research mobile device’s encryption capability
  • Download an Encryption app – if your phone isn’t capable.

Use Remote Wiping

Remote wiping: allows data to be erased if the device is lost or stolen.

If you are a provider who stores sensitive information on your phone, having this capability on your phone is crucial.

“The ability to take action remotely is a valuable security tool because you can disable, lock, or completely erase the data of a mobile device if the mobile device is lost or stolen.” Health IT reports. 

Install Security Software

Security is important to have on your device as a doctor.

Owning a mobile device makes you vulnerable to any type of security threat:

  • Spam
  • Malware
  • Viruses

Malware can disguise itself through email in order to compromise the data of the operation system.

This ultimately puts patients at risk.

Keeping this software up to date is also an important tool to use when practicing safe mobile device use.

Communicating With Patients via Text

When physicians start to communicate with patients electronically, ethical concerns develop.

“Physicians should also note that policies for texting may differ when communicating with patients vs. communicating with colleagues. For instance, if a patient initiates a text exchange, current HIPAA guidance notes that this may provide consent to communicate in this manner.” Wire AMA reports. 

If a patient texts you for medical advice, it is essential to remember a few key components.

  • Transparency with patients – Make it clear that texts are confidential, but not guaranteed to be secure.
  • Professionalism – Keep the conversation professional at all times, to avoid any miscommunication.
  • Develop boundaries – Set boundaries about how much information you are willing to give out over text.
  • Save texts – Always keep a record of the text message exchanges.

Looking Up Patient Information Online

“In the age of social media and online publication, vast amounts of information about patients—including many minute details—are available within a matter of seconds.” Wire AMA continues.

Doctors are growing more concerned about the risk that patients face when their information is so accessible online.

“Several physicians commented that looking for information beyond the clinical details available from the patient or health databases could deliver inaccurate information or details that could introduce bias into the patient’s care.” According to Wire AMA.


The Millennium Alliance is pleased to announce that application for our biannual Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly is now open! Seats are reserved for the C-Level executives leading the digital healthcare revolution to come together on December 5-6, 2017.

Technology and patient care go hand in hand. With the integration and development of technology in health care, patient care is affected. It is crucial for providers to understand the impact that they hold while handing secured patient data. Taking the proper steps to protect patients is necessary.

The healthcare landscape is constantly changing, affecting both the provider and the patient. The need for customer-centric transformation is more vital than ever. To be open and transparent with patients as new policies emerge is crucial.

Mobile devices are just one aspect of technology that is constantly being used in the industry, to effectively communicate with patients and to use up to date electronic apps that help providers do their job efficiently.

The Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly has been designed to put like minded individuals together in order to discuss the latest healthcare trends, technological advances, and patient concerns. Learn from the most valuable leaders in the healthcare industry to gain innovative knowledge about how to properly carry out patient relationships and how to properly integrate technology.

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