Breaking Compliance News Blog

Abuse by Smartphone

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 7/9/19 9:57 AM

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Four nurse aides commit abuse with Facebook Live

The family of an Illinois nursing home resident who appeared in a caregiver’s Facebook Live video is suing the home. Four nursing aids allegedly participated in a video of the resident, who is a stroke survivor with dementia. The lawsuit asserts that the video shows the resident in bed, holding a diaper, surrounding by employees who are harassing him. One of the caretakers is heard yelling “Take off your pants, [resident name].”

This example poses HIPAA concerns and abuse concerns. Without a patient authorization, it is a potential HIPAA violation to record the resident and share that recording with third parties. In addition, CMS made it clear in its Survey & Certification Memo 16-33 that humiliating or demeaning photos or recordings of nursing home residents are mental abuse.

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Snapchat use leads to criminal charges

Three employees of a Georgia long term care facility were asked to monitor a patient until hospice arrived. Instead of monitoring the patient, the employees made a video titled “The End,” using Snapchat, of themselves vaping, using profanity, and making obscene gestures. The patient – who was dying – is visible in the background. Another employee saw the video and reported it. The three caregivers were arrested and charged with exploiting an elderly and disabled person. They face 20 years in prison and a fine up to $50,000. 

Even more Snapchat criminal charges

A nursing home employee has been criminally charged with photographing an unsuspecting nude person, after posting videos of nursing home residents to social media.

In the first video, a resident is walking down the hallway, unclothed from the waist down.

The second video depicts a woman who soiled herself. The former employee faces up to 2.5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

What you can do

Remember – cell phone and social media use poses three risks in the health care setting:

  • HIPAA risk: When patients appear in the background of photos and videos – that’s PHI.
  • Abuse risk: Photos or videos that are humiliating or demeaning to a nursing home resident constitute mental abuse.
  • Quality Care risk: When employees are on their phones in patient rooms, patient care can suffer.

Make sure your staff are trained on both the HIPAA and abuse implications of involving residents with photos, videos, and social media – a very dangerous combination.  These implications also include termination (e.g. for violating HIPAA), license/certification discipline, lawsuits and, potentially, criminal charges (e.g. for unauthorized video recording).  

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Topics: HIPAA, Social Media, abuse

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