NYP hit with $2.2M fine for HIPAA violation in filming TV series

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New York-Presbyterian Hospital has been fined $2.2 million under sanctions handed down by the HHS Office for Civil Rights and has entered into a corrective action plan for unauthorized filming of two patients while participating in the “NY Med” television series.

It was the second HIPAA violation for New York-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP), which two years ago paid $3.3 million and Columbia University paid $1.5 million following a 2010 breach in which protected health information on a shared data network was found to be accessible on Google and other Internet search engines.

The HHS Office for Civil Rights said the latest violation was a result of flaws in NYP’s judgment in allowing filming of the TV series.

“In particular, OCR found that NYP allowed the ABC crew to film someone who was dying and another person in significant distress, even after a medical professional urged the crew to stop,” an agency said.

Overall, OCR found that NYP gave the network “virtually unfettered access to its healthcare facility,” which created an environment where PHI could not be protected. “This case sends an important message that OCR will not permit covered entities to compromise their patients’ privacy by allowing news or television crews to film the patients without their authorization,” OCR Director Jocelyn Samuels said in the announcement.

Also See: $4.8 million in HIPAA fines for NYP, Columbia

Under a resolution agreement with OCR, the hospital has entered into a 2-year corrective action plan that includes developing new policies and procedures to ensure that photography, video or audio recordings—for purposes not related to the provision of medical care—can only be done with authorization from a patient or the patient’s personal representative.

A range of other mandated policies and procedures will govern multiple issues related to such recordings. Specific workforce HIPAA privacy training policies also are spelled out.

NYP issued the following statement on the regulatory sanctions:

“New York-Presbyterian reached agreement with the Office for Civil Rights in order to bring closure to OCR’s review process.

“Our participation in the ABC News documentary program “NY Med” was intended to educate the public and provide insight into the complexities of medical care and the daily challenges faced by our dedicated and compassionate medical professionals. This program, and others that preceded it, garnered critical acclaim, and raised the public’s consciousness of important public health issues, including organ transplantation and donation. It also vividly depicted how our emergency department medical team works tirelessly every day to save patients’ lives. The hospital continues to maintain that the filming of this documentary program did not violate the HIPAA Privacy Rule.”

With its latest HIPAA enforcement action, OCR also has issued to industry stakeholders new guidance on filming, available here. The NYP resolution agreement and corrective action plan is here.

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