3 Massachusetts hospitals fined nearly $1 million by OCR for HIPAA violations

Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital let ABC film a documentary on site without obtaining patient authorization.
By Jessica Davis
11:36 AM
HIPAA compliance audit paper.

Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital settled with the Office of Civil Rights for $999,000 for compromising patient privacy during the filming of an ABC documentary.

All three hospital reached separate settlements with OCR for inviting ABC film crews to film on site without first obtaining patient authorization. BMC was fined $100,000, BWH settled for $384,000 and MGH paid $515,000. Each will implement staff training as part of individual corrective action plans.

Those plans will include developing policies and procedures around photography, video recording and audio recording. The hospitals will also need a process for both evaluating and approving requests form the media to film not otherwise open to the public.

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According to the settlement agreements, all three hospitals denied they impermissibly disclosed patient health data and said they did obtain proper consent. Further, the plans stated the agreements are not an admission of liability and “potential violations alleged in the covered conduct do not constitute findings of fact.”

OCR differed in its findings, stating there was no concession the hospitals weren’t in violation and not liable for monetary fines.

“Patients in hospitals expect to encounter doctors and nurses when getting treatment, not film crews recording them at their most private and vulnerable moments,” Roger Severino, OCR director, said in a statement. “Hospitals must get authorization from patients before allowing strangers to have access to patients and their medical information.”

This is the second HIPAA settlement involving improper filming. New York-Presbyterian Hospital settled with OCR in April 2016 for $2.2 million, when the health data of two patients was revealed to the ABC film crew for the TV show “NY Med.” OCR called the breach “an egregious disclosure.”

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Twitter: @JF_Davis_
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com