The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, is a federal law that protects a patient’s right to keep certain medical and other health care information private. HIPAA protects information that health care providers put in a patient’s medical record, billing information, and most other health information held by those who must follow federal privacy laws.
Under HIPAA, covered entities must put safeguards in place to protect the privacy of patients’ information, including keeping disclosures to the minimum necessary to accomplish an intended purpose. Violations of HIPAA rules can result in hefty civil and criminal penalties.
One would think that the privacy rules and penalties set for under HIPAA – and common decency – would prevent the gratuitous posting of photos of nursing home residents, but a recent report suggests that this is not so.
Social Media Posts Lead to Criminal Charges
According an article written by public watchdog journalism site ProPublica and published in The Washington Post, “nursing home workers across the country are posting… photos of elderly residents… violating their privacy [and] dignity…” The report states that 35 such nursing home photos (and videos) have been identified, some of which showed residents who were at least partially nude.
Although many of the workers engaging in such deplorable conduct have thus far gotten away with it, criminal charges have been filed against a nursing assistant in California. A health care worker in Ohio was fired after allegedly recording an inappropriate video of an elderly retired church secretary and sharing it on Snapchat. In Massachusetts, elder abuse charges are being pursued against two women who posted several videos of residents on social media.
A Little Good News Along with the Bad
While such flagrant violations of the privacy and dignity of vulnerable nursing home residents are both cruel and illegal, there is one bit of good news. Since the sharing of pictures and videos leaves a digital trail, there may be more damning evidence available in these types of cases than in many other kinds of nursing home abuse or neglect cases in which there is little, if any, physical evidence.
It is worth noting that cell phone use is discouraged or even forbidden by employees in some nursing homes. Of course, a written policy does not actually prevent health care workers from misbehaving or taking nursing home photos and sharing them with friends. Perhaps, in time, civil litigation and criminal prosecution will end or at least curtail the disgusting practice of taking nursing home photos for amusement.
To Talk to a Kentucky Nursing Home Lawyer
If you have concerns about a loved one’s level of care in a nursing home, assisted living center, or other long-term care facility, you owe it to yourself, your family member, and other residents to speak to an attorney about the situation. The experienced nursing home abuse attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley can advise you about your legal rights concerning your loved one’s care, including the right to seek monetary compensation for negligence in a court of law. Contact English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley at (270) 781-6500 for a free consultation. We handle cases throughout south central Kentucky, including Bowling Green, Glasgow, and Brownsville.
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