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Policing Patient Privacy

Patient Privacy and Medical Care

ProPublica is exploring how patient privacy violations are affecting patients and the medical care they receive.

Nursing Home Workers Still Posting Nude and Vulgar Photos of Residents on Snapchat

Federal and state officials have increased their focus on the problem, but ProPublica found 18 incidents in the last year in which employees at nursing homes and assisted living facilities posted unauthorized photos and videos of residents on social media platforms.

Inappropriate Social Media Posts by Nursing Home Workers, Detailed

Below are details of 65 incidents since 2012 in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers shared photos or videos of residents on social media networks. The details come from government inspection reports, court cases and media reports.

New Jersey Seeks to Sanction Psychologist for Disclosing Patients’ Diagnoses in Court Filings

Lawsuits filed on behalf of a psychologist and his practice had disclosed details of patients’ mental health diagnoses and treatments, including those of children. Psychologist Barry Helfmann denies wrongdoing.

Federal Health Officials Seek to Stop Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents

After ProPublica identified dozens of cases of dehumanizing photos posted on social media sites, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced a plan to increase its oversight to prevent and punish such abuse.

The Secret Documents That Detail How Patients’ Privacy is Breached

A federal agency sends thousands of letters a year to health providers closing out complaints about HIPAA violations. Though the government could make those letters public, it doesn’t. ProPublica has started to do so.

Health Gadgets and Apps Outpace Privacy Protections, Report Finds

In 2009, Congress asked for recommendations on what to do about information that falls outside the privacy law known as HIPAA. Today, health officials released their report, but offered no suggestions.

As Cases Multiply, Officials Scramble to Stop Abuse of Nursing Home Residents on Social Media

Iowa health officials recently discovered it wasn’t against state law for a nursing home worker to share a photo on Snapchat of a resident covered in feces. They are trying to change that.

Stung by Yelp Reviews, Health Providers Spill Patient Secrets

The vast majority of reviews on Yelp are positive. But in trying to respond to critical ones, some doctors, dentists and chiropractors appear to be violating the federal patient privacy law known as HIPAA.

New York Hospital to Pay $2.2 Million Fine for Allowing Filming of Patients Without Consent

Federal action could spell the end of emergency room reality television.

New York Top Court Revives Suit Against Hospital That Let Man’s Death Be Filmed

Mark Chanko’s family sued NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and one of its doctors for allowing a TV crew to film his death without permission. A lower court had thrown the case out, but the New York Court of Appeals revived it.

Another Senator Calls for Action on Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents

The move follows a ProPublica report that identified some three dozen incidents since 2012 in which dehumanizing or degrading photos of residents were posted on social media sites.

Senator Asks Privacy Regulators to Stop Abuse of Nursing Home Residents on Social Media

ProPublica reported in December about three dozen inappropriate posts by employees of nursing homes and assisted living centers. A top Democrat wants details on efforts to combat the trend.

Nursing Assistant Fired, Charged After Posting Nude Video of 93-Year-Old on Snapchat

The incident, which allegedly took place earlier this month, is the most recent in a string of surreptitious recordings by employees of nursing homes and assisted-living centers. Many involve the social media network Snapchat.

The Consequences for Violating Patient Privacy in California? Depends Where the Hospital Is

A ProPublica analysis found California officials are inconsistently enforcing a 2008 patient privacy law. Hospitals in the state’s Inland Empire rack up deficiencies while Los Angeles hospitals almost never do.

Farrah Fawcett Was Right — We Have Little Medical Privacy

Our reporter spent the past year reporting on loopholes and lax enforcement of the federal patient-privacy law known as HIPAA. He was often reminded of his interview years ago with Fawcett after her privacy was breached. "It seems that there are areas that should be off-limits," she said.

Another VA Headache: Privacy Violations Rising at Veterans’ Medical Facilities

Deceased vets’ data has been sent to the wrong widows. Employees have snooped on the records of patients who’ve committed suicide. And whistleblowers say their own medical privacy has been violated. In response, the VA says patient privacy is a priority.

Methodology: How We Analyzed Privacy Violation Data

ProPublica followed the paper trail to find out the health care facilities that repeatedly violated patient privacy laws. Find out how we did it.

Few Consequences For Health Privacy Law's Repeat Offenders

Regulators have logged dozens, even hundreds, of complaints against some health providers for violating federal patient privacy law. Warnings are doled out privately, but sanctions are imposed only rarely. Companies say they take privacy seriously.

HIPAA Helper

Who is Revealing Your Private Medical Information?

New Jersey Psychology Practice Revealed Patients’ Mental Disorders in Debt Lawsuits

When pursuing unpaid bills, Short Hills Associates in Clinical Psychology disclosed the diagnoses and treatments of patients, including minor children, in court papers. “It turned my life upside down,” one former patient said. HIPAA doesn’t apply.

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