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CMS: Fairview Southdale Hospital Videotaped Patients Without Knowledge or Consent

The HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has investigated Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, MN over an alleged violation of patient privacy. The CMS confirmed that patients were videotaped during psychiatric evaluations in the emergency department without their knowledge or consent.  The hospital was cited for violating patient privacy.

According to the Star Tribune, the CMS launched an investigation following a complaint from a patient who had been taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation against her will in May 2017. The patient was escorted to the hospital as police officers were concerned about her state of mental health and feared she may cause harm to herself or others.

After being released, the patient took legal action over her admission to the hospital and how she was treated by the police. As part of that lawsuit, the patient requested a copy of the security camera footage from the hospital. While the patient expected to receive a copy of the videotape from the front of the hospital showing her entering the facility, the videotape showed her entire visit, including her psychiatric evaluation and her changing into hospital scrubs. The videotape only showed the patient’s back as she was getting changed.

The patient was horrified that the entire visit had been recorded without her knowledge and claimed that there were no warning signs in the emergency room advising patients that they were being recorded.

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Fairview Southdale Hospital does indicate on its consent form for treatment that patients may be videotaped for the purpose of medical education, but in this case the patient refused to read to sign the consent form as she was not in the hospital of her own free will and had refused treatment.

Fairview Southdale Hospital cooperated fully with the investigation and informed the CMS that an additional 8 video cameras had been installed in rooms in the emergency department that were used for psychiatric evaluations following an increase in the number of incidents in which patients had become violent.

CMS found that cameras were used in those rooms, although there were no signs warning patients that they were being videotaped. The camera footage was visible in the nursing station but was out of public view.

Typically, footage from the cameras is permanently erased, although in this case the footage was retained as the patient had also made a complaint to the hospital about her visit.

Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Star Tribune, “Healthcare facilities that videorecord patients for security reasons should notify them… If you’re going to do it, there should be a sign and you should orally tell the person.”

Following the investigation, the hospital retrained staff and informed its nurses to instruct patients that they may be filmed during their emergency room visits. Privacy screens have now been installed to prevent patients from being filmed while changing and from September, the hospital has discontinued recording video footage, but will continue to use the cameras for medical education purposes and for safety reasons.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.