Information technology has become an integral part of the healthcare industry these days. Healthcare practitioners can access detailed information concerning patients’ health within seconds with the help of easy-to-use devices. This efficiency has a positive impact on patient outcomes as the medical staff can make evidence-based decisions quickly (Kruse, Smith, Vanderlinden, & Nealand, 2017).
Data sharing has become a fast and convenient process that saves time. However, digital technology with all its benefits is also associated with certain hazards. One of the major challenges related to the use of digital data is its security. Patient health records include sensitive information that cannot be disclosed without the individual’s consent, but all information systems are vulnerable (Norwich University Online, 2017). Therefore, healthcare professionals have to follow some rules and keep in mind certain data safety guidelines. This paper includes a review of five effective measures that can ensure the security of information in the nursing professional environment.
Usernames and passwords have entered people’s lives to make them feel safer in the digital world. The use of cryptography is one of the most common ways to address data security issues (The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, 2015). In order to access health records, nurses are required to provide passwords (secret codes). This practice ensures the limited access to the information as no third parties can view records without a password.
Nurses can also have corporate email addresses or some profiles and accounts that need a secret code as well. Passwords are regularly changed, which minimizes a threat of a breach. When developing these codes, nursing practitioners are asked to use different signs (letters, numbers, or even punctuation marks). These cannot be users’ names or dates mentioned in their profiles as such passwords are rather weak. Although many people do not follow this rule of thumb, it is essential to have different passwords for each account or source. Clearly, nurses cannot disclose their passwords to anyone without the corresponding permission. It can be reasonable to have a notepad where all the passwords are written.
When documents are sent via email or stored on a memory stick, it can be necessary to use protected zip files. The chances that such data will be viewed by third parties are quite high, so passwords can be the last-resort strategy. Nurses should develop strong code words and inform the receiver about these codes. Obviously, it is inappropriate to provide the password in the same email or mention the codes in crowded places.
Nursing professionals should make sure that the data will be accessed by a specific person or people. It is also necessary to be careful when using other people’s memory sticks as they can contain hazardous computer viruses. All healthcare facilities have antivirus software, so it is necessary to check all files. It is also beneficial to have this kind of software to ensure the protection of personal devices (computers, laptops, smartphones, or tablets). The cases when employees ‘infect’ their workplace devices are not rare.
Using Safe Sources
Another simple but effective strategy is to use safe sources when using digital technology. Healthcare facilities have to face a serious challenge related to data security (Norwich University Online, 2017). This hazard, known as ransomware, is a recent type of cybercrime that is a form of blackmail. In 80% of cases, ransomware targets hospitals that have databases containing sensitive data of thousands of people (Norwich University Online, 2017).
First, a user receives or locates a file, but after this document is downloaded, an inscription appears saying that all the data will be destroyed unless a certain amount of money is provided. Clearly, the loss of data can have detrimental effects on a healthcare facility, as well as patient outcomes. Hence, nurses should make sure they download and use files from the sources that are trustworthy. If some data may seem relevant, but the source is not known, nursing practitioners should consult IT professionals or avoid using the file at all.
Privacy Screen Protectors
A decade ago, the use of computers was regarded as the most efficient way to manage data. Modern healthcare professionals need more flexibility, so they are now able to use their smartphones and tablets. This mobility can literally save lives, so the utilization of such mobile devices is becoming common. However, it is vital to protect the viewed data from other people. Privacy screen protectors ensure the security of information as the user can view the content of the screen from certain angles exclusively.
Other people can only see obscure screens, and cannot see anything if they use wrong angles. This strategy can be compared to the guidelines not to discuss patients’ conditions or personal data in public places. Nurses should make sure that no one peeps into their mobile devices due to possible negative effects.
Being Reasonably Secretive
The use of social media is a widespread practice as modern people like feeling connected. Nursing professionals cannot be asked to abandon social networks since it is their right to utilize these sources. However, this use should be confined to non-working hours, and nurses should be trained to be cautious users of social media. It can be reasonable not to reveal complete dates of birth or full names. Anything that appears online can potentially be used by cybercriminals.
This information can be used to identify usernames and even passwords employed at healthcare facilities. Although young people are taught to manage digital technology from their early years at school, the temptation is still too big to comply with such regulations. Nurses should always remember that their activities can have adverse effects on patients’ wellbeing.
On balance, it is necessary to note that the use of technology is an important component of nursing practice. Such strategies as the application of passwords and privacy screen protectors, responsible use of social media and reliance on safe sources, as well as proper information storage help nurses to avoid many data security issues. Nurses can easily access vast amounts of data, which facilitates the provision of high-quality care, but the utilization of information systems and various devices is also associated with security issues. Healthcare facilities have their codes of conducts and safety guidelines that help nursing practitioners to use digital technology safely. It is also nurses’ responsibility to seek more information on the matter as new hazards emerge each day.
Nursing professionals can initiate discussions related to digital data security during their regular meetings. It is essential to share information concerning the most effective strategies to utilize technology safely. Nursing practitioners can also address their facilities’ administration asking about workshops and training in cybersecurity.
Kruse, C. S., Smith, B., Vanderlinden, H., & Nealand, A. (2017). Security techniques for the electronic health records. Journal of Medical Systems, 41(8). Web.
Norwich University Online. (2017). How nurse leadership can help prevent ransomware attacks. Web.
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. (2015). Guide to privacy and security of electronic health information. Web.