Understand Camera Use Compliance In Your Long Term Care Facility

Hint: Turn to CMS privacy rules, state laws, and HIPAA for guidance

Whether a family wants a surveillance camera in their loved one’s room or your staff takes random pictures to post on social media, camera use compliance—not to mention patient privacy—in long term care (LTC) facilities is a real concern.

You have an obligation, mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to safeguard residents’ privacy and confidentiality, asserts Todd Selby in his webinar for AudioEducator, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Video Surveillance and Other Types of Monitoring in Long Term Care Facilities.” Selby understands how to reconcile your duty to CMS privacy rules with requests for putting recording devices inside a resident’s living space—which is why he presents real-world scenarios to explain when and how “granny cams” and other devices may be used in LTC facilities.

Granny Cam Laws Vary By State

There are a number of reasons why family members might want to install a granny cam—a video or audio recording device—in their loved one’s room, including giving family peace of mind and confirming or denying suspected abuse or neglect, suggests Caplan & Earnest Attorneys At Law. The legality of such cameras isn’t so clear.

Relevant laws vary by state. “In Illinois, for example, the resident and the resident’s roommate must consent to the camera, and notice must be posted outside the resident’s room to alert those entering the room about the recording,” states Joseph J. Lazzarotti in a National Law Review article.

“In states without firm laws, long-term care providers are generally allowed to make their own rules involving the use—or prohibition—of cameras in resident rooms, with some legal or regulatory guidance from the legislature,” states Alex Spanko in a Skilled Nursing News article. “But even among the 11 with explicit guidelines, each state’s laws are different, bringing an added layer of complexity for operators that may have buildings in multiple states.”

Set A Social Media Policy That Benefits Resident & Facility

With a camera on every cell phone, you have another big camera dilemma: How to handle resident privacy in the age of social media?

Social media is a great marketing tool for your facility, but without a clear policy in place, you open the door to employees making sloppy judgment calls at a disservice to resident’s privacy and your reputation.

Consider this: “Even the most heartwarming video of an elderly woman excitedly opening a birthday present may constitute a serious violation of privacy and even the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) if proper permissions were not obtained,” notes Carrie Kerskie in an Aging Care article about social media abuse in nursing homes. The act of photographing or recording “can present a serious challenge … since many residents in nursing homes and memory care facilities suffer from varying levels of cognitive impairment and are unable to consent to such activities,” she writes.

Be careful: Don’t think of a social media policy as optional. CMS requires that you have a policy in place that treats residents with respect and dignity—including not taking embarrassing photos of residents and posting them on personal social media pages.

When drafting your social media policy, consider these three suggestions:

  • Get permission first: Obtain permission before posting any photos of residents on your social media pages. “It can be beneficial to show photos of social outings and fun activities, but the resident or the resident’s legal guardian must agree in writing to show the picture,” states an article by Bonezzi Switzer Polity & Hupp Attorneys At Law on the benefits and dangers of social media in LTC facilities. Go one step further: Require disclaimers on employee posts, too. “All blog and social media posts by employees should include a disclaimer that the posting is the sole opinion of the poster and does not represent the facility in which they are employed,” the attorneys further suggest.
  • Monitor posts & let employees know it: What your employees do off the clock is their business—unless it violates your residents’ rights and your facility’s social media policy. “In all employment agreements, a long-term care facility should include a provision that the employer can discipline and even terminate the employment of any employee that disparages the long-term care facility or its business practices, or otherwise violates its social media policies,” according to Bonezzi Switzer Polity & Hupp Attorneys At Law.
  • Set rules for media equipment use. Don’t allow your staff to take pictures of residents from their cell phones or other personal devices at your facility. “If the provider needs a photo of a resident for the purpose of care or training, only authorized people using equipment specified in the policy should take the photo,” states an article in Provider. “State where in the facility, and under what circumstances, personal cell phones and other personal devices can be used, such as on breaks or outside.”

Don’t forget: Train your staff on these policies, too, and make sure employees are aware of the consequences for violations, reminds the Provider article.

Learn How To Enforce Camera Use Compliance

You need to understand both CMS privacy rules and state law developments regarding the use of video cameras in LTC settings, asserts healthcare industry regulation expert Todd Selby.

But it isn’t enough to have policies in place, you also must know how to recognize the resident privacy issues that recording devices introduce and respond appropriately when you encounter camera/social media use.

In his AudioEducator webinar, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Video Surveillance and Other Types of Monitoring in Long Term Care Facilities,” Selby explores how to handle sensitive issues regarding camera and social media use in your LTC facility—and explains how to enact policies that effectively address camera use and resident privacy.

To join the conference or see a replay, order a DVD or transcript, or read more

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