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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 Share Explicit Photos of Residents on Snapchat

A ProPublica review found 35 cases since 2012 in which nursing home or assisted living workers surreptitiously shared photos or videos of residents on social media. At least 16 cases involved Snapchat.

Inappropriate Social Media Posts by Nursing Home Workers, Detailed

Below are details of 47 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.

Small-Scale Violations of Medical Privacy Often Cause the Most Harm

Breaches that expose the health details of just a patient or two are proliferating nationwide. Regulators focus on larger privacy violations and rarely take action on small ones, despite the harm.

Privacy Not Included: Federal Law Lags Behind New Tech

The federal privacy law known as HIPAA doesn’t cover home paternity tests, fitness trackers or health apps. When a Florida woman complained after seeing the paternity test results of thousands of people online, federal regulators told her they didn’t have jurisdiction.

After Sexual Assault, Woman Says University Lawyers Accessed Her Counseling Records

Laura Hanson says University of Oregon attorneys obtained her counseling records without her permission. The university says it did nothing wrong, but has since changed its policy.

When Students Become Patients, Privacy Suffers

University students have less privacy for their campus health records than they would have if they sought care off campus. Schools say they are trying to seek the right balance between privacy and safety.

Foes Dive for Discarded Records in Abortion Clinic Dumpsters

Garbage has become an unlikely battleground in the abortion debate, as anti-abortion groups seek evidence of privacy violations in clinics’ trash. “Is it a little bit on the sketchy side?” one activist said of such tactics. “Yeah, maybe.”

Activists Pursue Private Abortion Details Using Public Records Laws

Across the country, those who support abortion rights and those who oppose them are feuding in court over how much information should be disclosed about women undergoing abortions. Supporters say there’s no margin for error. Opponents say it’s about ensuring quality care.

New York City Hospitals to End Filming Without Consent

After a reality television show filmed the death of a man without getting his family’s approval, New York City hospitals have decided to put an end to filming patients without consent.

Health Data Breaches Sow Confusion, Frustration

One consumer was the victim of hacking attacks on two different health insurers; a company’s privacy officer didn’t realize that health insurer Anthem even had her data. “It gives you a new perspective when you’re actually one of the folks whose data is disclosed.”

Despite Wave of Data Breaches, Official Says Patient Privacy Isn’t Dead

Yet another health insurer reported a massive data breach this week, affecting the financial and medical information of 11 million people. We asked the head of the federal agency tasked with investigating these issues whether the notion of patient privacy was outmoded.

New York Legislation Would Make It a Felony to Film Patients Without Prior Consent

The bill was filed after a ProPublica story about a man whose death was recorded by the real-life medical series “NY Med” without permission. His widow recognized her husband while watching the show on TV.

Ebola-infected Nurse Contends Dallas Hospital Violated Her Privacy

In a lawsuit filed today, nurse Nina Pham says that a colleague videotaped her without her permission and then the hospital released the tape to the media.

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Fines Remain Rare Even As Health Data Breaches Multiply

Federal health watchdogs say they are cracking down on organizations that don’t protect the privacy and security of patient records, but data suggests otherwise.

Over 1,100 Health Data Breaches, but Few Fines

Since October 2009, health care organizations and their business partners reported 1,142 large-scale data breaches, each affecting at least 500 people, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those, seven breaches have resulted in fines.

When a Patient's Death is Broadcast Without Permission

The ABC television show "NY Med" filmed Mark Chanko's final moments without the approval of his family. Even though his face was blurred, his wife recognized him. "I saw my husband die before my eyes."

Are Patient Privacy Laws Being Misused to Protect Medical Centers?

A 1996 law known as HIPAA has been cited to scold a mom taking a picture of her son in a hospital, to keep information away from police investigating a possible rape at a nursing home, and to threaten VA whistleblowers.

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