Breaking Compliance News Blog

Smartphones: The biggest HIPAA and abuse offenders

Posted by Margaret Scavotto, JD, CHC on 10/16/19 6:27 AM

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It can be a HIPAA problem and an abuse problem: when nursing home staff take pictures of residents with their smartphones. Here’s an example.

CNA took photo of deceased resident and shared it to Snapchat

Five CNAs at a New York nursing home took photos and videos of residents—including one deceased resident—on their cell phones and shared them on Snapchat

The nursing home was notified of the incident when a member of the public called the administrator and reported that a CNA sent her a photograph of a deceased resident. This CNA admitted taking and sharing photos and videos of eight residents. Her reason for photographing the man who died was “because she was upset that the resident had passed away.” She also took five videos of another resident “mostly yelling and swearing” and sent them to another CNA.

Another CNA admitted that “everyone on the unit on the evening shift was using their cell phones.”

The registered nurse manager reported that “all staff had been educated on the policy not to take and disseminate photographs previous to these incidents.”

CMS 16-33

CMS has stated that humiliating or demeaning photos or videos of nursing home residents are mental abuse. Surveys will determine if nursing homes are protecting residents from this type of this abuse.

mental abuse snip

CMS outlines the steps nursing homes must take in order to do well on this survey – and meet expectations for preventing this type of mental abuse

  • Implement policies and procedures prohibiting abuse. These policies need to address mental abuse arising from demeaning or humiliating pictures or recordings.

  • Train staff on mental abuse arising from these pictures or recordings.

  • Take training one step further and “provide ongoing oversight and supervision of staff in order to assure that these policies are implemented as written.”

  • Treat these incidents of mental abuse as any other abuse allegation: with investigation and reporting.

What else you can do

Social media use in nursing homes – and other providers – is a rampant HIPAA headline. Remind staff that photos or videos of residents violate HIPAA; and, time on phones can lead to lapses in care. Also conduct HIPAA walk throughs to monitor adherence to your cell phone policy.

hipaa handbooks abuse by smartphone snip

MCS Signature November 2018

Topics: HIPAA, abuse, skilled nursing

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