Surveillance Cameras An Invasion of Privacy in Healthcare Clinics
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Surveillance Cameras: An Invasion of Privacy in Healthcare Clinics

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Many private clinics and privately owned healthcare facilities use security systems to protect the premises against criminal activity. A common component of these security systems is surveillance cameras.

While they can be an efficient deterrent against theft and an excellent method to protect hospital employees, they can also be detrimental to patient privacy. Surveillance footage may record sensitive health information, Social Security Numbers, and other protected data. Anyone with access to the footage can potentially access the information the security cameras can see, often without patient consent.

If you suspect a healthcare facility has mishandled your medical information or violated your privacy during a medical procedure, a skilled attorney has the expertise to help. They can review the facility’s security system, the circumstances of your privacy breach, and whether you have a case against the facility.

Benefits of Surveillance Cameras

Private healthcare facilities, such as doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals, often use security systems and surveillance cameras for safety reasons. They provide many legitimate benefits to the premises and its patients when used correctly and ethically.

  • Better premises security. According to the IAHSS 2023 Healthcare Crime Survey, the most common forms of criminal activity in healthcare facilities are disorderly conduct, assault, theft, and vandalism. Cameras are an efficient deterrent against such criminal activity because they can be used to identify perpetrators and protect victims.
  • Patient monitoring. When used appropriately, security cameras can monitor patient activity and detect potential risks to their safety. For example, cameras in busy or accident-prone areas can detect falls or accidental injuries as soon as they occur. They can also be used to monitor patients at high risk of self-harm.
  • Visitor management. Surveillance cameras are often placed in high-traffic areas, and anywhere visitors and family members are allowed to enter. The purpose of these cameras is to ensure that unauthorized individuals do not enter areas they are not permitted.
  • Staff safety. Cameras can also be used to protect caregivers and other hospital employees. They are the most at risk of being on the receiving end of aggressive behavior or becoming victims of disorderly conduct and assault. The deterrent potential of a camera can be used to help keep personnel safe.
  • Regulatory compliance. Surveillance cameras can help facilities comply with federal and state workplace safety regulations, such as OSHA or the Michigan Public Health Code.

Risks of Surveillance

While video surveillance systems offer many legitimate benefits, improper camera placement and misuse of the footage can endanger a patient’s medical records, privacy, and personal data.

In addition to endangering patients, they may violate state and federal health information privacy laws. The most relevant federal law is the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enforced by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

In Michigan, patient privacy is further safeguarded by tools like the Protected Health Information Consent Tool (PHI). This requires health facilities to notify patients about any surveillance practices and also mandates strict security and access controls for any recorded footage.

Here’s an overview of the risks and privacy issues associated with surveillance systems:

  • Improper camera placement. While surveillance cameras are expected in the public areas of a hospital or clinic, excessive or inappropriate camera placement can endanger patient confidentiality and privacy. For example, a camera in an examination room can violate a patient’s privacy and HIPAA regulations because it can record protected information without consent.
  • Data security risks. Without proper safety measures, a hospital’s security footage may be vulnerable to data breaches and unauthorized access. The risks can come from outside threats, such as hackers or internal actors, such as poorly trained or malicious security staff.
  • Patient consent issues. Even if a healthcare facility has legitimate reasons to use security cameras, they may not record patients or visitors unethically. If cameras are used in parts of the facility where patients expect privacy, the lack of clear signage or patient consent can violate their rights. Examples include consultation offices, examination rooms, and patient rooms.
  • Misuse of footage. Surveillance camera footage is exclusively intended for security use. Healthcare facilities may not misuse footage, such as sharing it without consent, using it to obtain private information, or committing acts of discrimination.

Risks of Surveillance

Has Your Privacy Been Compromised in a Medical Facility?

While surveillance cameras are an expected part of any healthcare facility’s security system, misuse can transform this safety tool into a threat to your privacy. If you notice any of these indicators as a patient in a healthcare facility, your privacy may have been compromised:

  • Cameras in private or unexpected areas inside the facility
  • Learning your private health information has been shared or leaked to a third party without your consent
  • Finding medical records or other private information has been publicly exposed
  • Receiving a data breach notification from the healthcare facility or learning the facility was hacked from a news outlet
  • Receiving unsolicited communications or services about private health information, such as your condition or confidential details
  • Experiencing identity theft or financial fraud, suggesting that your personal information has been stolen from your medical records

At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., our senior partner, Eileen Kroll, started her career as a registered nurse. She combines several years of field experience as a caregiver and extensive knowledge of healthcare law and medical malpractice cases. She has used her background and training to be an efficient and thorough advocate for patients’ rights.

As a nurse attorney, Eileen champions her clients’ causes and fights to ensure they receive the justice and compensation they deserve. Her expertise allows her to handle various cases, from personal injury to medical malpractice in healthcare environments.

With Eileen and our legal team on your side, you’ll have access to experienced, compassionate individuals ready to fiercely defend your rights during and after healthcare procedures.

If you believe that your privacy rights have been violated as a result of a personal injury or medical malpractice incident, reach out to our law firm for assistance. Our team is prepared to engage in discussions with the responsible care facility and their insurance companies to secure the compensation you deserve. Should it be necessary, we are also ready to present and advocate for your case in court.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Contact us today online or call our 24-hour toll-free number at 1-866-MICH-LAW  to schedule a no-obligation free consultation.

FAQs

Is it legal to have cameras in a patient’s room?

Although no state or federal law explicitly prohibits or regulates the use of security cameras in patients’ rooms, they must not violate HIPAA and other healthcare privacy regulations. The cameras must not be captured, stored, or used to identify sensitive healthcare information without the patient’s consent.

Do hospitals have cameras in patient rooms?

It is rare for hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities to use surveillance cameras inside a patient’s room. They are typically only used to monitor patients at high risk to themselves. They can also be used in intensive care units (ICUs), where constant observation of a patient’s condition may be necessary.

What states allow cameras in hospital rooms?

All states and legislations in the United States permit using cameras in hospital rooms, within reason. While no state or federal law explicitly disallows their use, local rules and regulations regarding patient privacy may affect how a healthcare facility is legally allowed to use the footage.
For example, in Michigan, the anti-eavesdropping law (MCL 750.539d) prohibits using photo, audio, or video recording devices in “private places” without the consent of the people entitled to privacy in such places. Private places may include parts of a healthcare facility where a resident is entitled to or can expect privacy, such as inside a patient’s room or a doctor’s office.

Do surveillance cameras violate HIPAA?

Not necessarily. While the use of surveillance cameras in a healthcare setting does not inherently violate HIPAA, facilities must ensure their use complies with the law’s requirements.

For instance, their use must be legitimate, and they must not be used in a way that compromises a visitor’s or a patient’s privacy. Facilities must also implement strict access controls, ensuring only authorized and properly trained personnel can access the footage.

Are doctors’ offices allowed to have cameras?

Yes, as long as the cameras are placed and used in a way that does not violate HIPAA and other privacy regulations. The camera may only be used for legitimate security reasons and all footage must be appropriately secured and handled.

Because confidential conversations and private information are often shared inside a doctor’s office, the facility may need to ask for a patient’s explicit consent before recording.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Sebastian graduated from a liberal arts ivy league college with a major in history and minors in economics and classical studies. While in college he worked as a medical trainer and has a special interest in sports injuries and their impact on student-athletes. In his spare time, he enjoys playing soccer and ice hockey and visiting museums.

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