$2.2 Million HIPAA Penalty for Unauthorized Filming of Patients

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has announced its second HIPAA compliance settlement in three days, having arrived at an agreement with New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) over alleged violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

The settlement stems from the ‘egregious disclosure’ of protected health information to multiple individuals during the filming of a television show at the hospital.

NYP had agreed to allow an ABC film crew access to multiple areas of the hospital in order to shoot footage for the show “NY Med.” The footage was recorded in April 2011 and the show aired in August 2012. The footage contained images of patients who had not consented to be filmed.

The crew was allowed to film patients undergoing treatment in the emergency room. The OCR investigation honed in on two patients who were filmed while in significant distress.

Mark Chanko, 75, had been taken to NYP in April, 2011 after being critically injured in a road traffic accident. Chanko was rushed to NYP and doctors attempted to save his life; however, his injuries were so severe that in spite of the efforts of the hospital staff, Chanko did not survive. The ABC film crew recorded footage of Chanko being treated for the hospital reality show.

The show was viewed by Chanko’s wife and daughter, who were able to identify their husband and father from the footage, even though attempts had been made to hide his identity by the production team.

Anita Chanko said she heard her husband ask “Does my wife know I’m here?” and could tell he was in significant pain and distress. She said “I hear them saying his blood pressure is falling. I hear them getting out the paddles and then I hear them saying, ‘OK, are you ready to pronounce him?’.

Mark Chanko’s family has filed complaints with the New York Presbyterian Hospital, New York State Department of Health, a hospital accrediting group, ABC, and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. A lawsuit was also filed against ABC, NYP, and the surgeon, Dr. Sebastian Schubl, although the case was dismissed by an appellate court. ABC has since removed footage of Mark Chanko from the DVD of the show and will not show Chanko receiving treatment in future airings of NY Med.

The OCR investigation revealed NYP had not taken sufficient precautions to safeguard the protected health information of patients from the ABC film crew. OCR investigators determined that NYP had given “virtually unfettered access” to its facility and had created an environment where it was not possible to ensure that patients’ PHI was protected from impermissible disclosure to members of the ABC film crew. OCR found NYP’s actions to be a blatant violation of HIPAA Rules and a serious invasion of patient privacy.

In addition to paying a $2.2 million financial settlement, NYP will be monitored closely by OCR for a period of two years to ensure the hospital meets its obligations under HIPAA and ensures that the privacy of patients is fully protected.

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of NetSec.news