CMS Investigates Fairview Southdale Hospital Patient Privacy Violation

The HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has investigated Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina, MN over an alleged privacy violation after a patient discovered she had been filmed while she underwent a psychiatric evaluation in the emergency department of the hospital in May 2017. The patient claimed she had not been informed that she was being recorded and did not give her permission to be filmed.

According to a report in the Star Tribune, the woman had been taken to the hospital against her will by police officers who were concerned that the woman would harm herself and others. After the evaluation, the patient filed a lawsuit over her treatment by the police and requested video footage from the hospital to support her claims in the lawsuit. The woman expected to receive video footage of her arriving at the hospital, but the video file she was provided with showed the entire duration of her visit, including inside the emergency room and the evaluation room. She was also recorded while she changed into a hospital robe, although only her back was visible.

Fairview Southdale Hospital does have a treatment consent form that patients are required to sign, but because the patient did not consent to being examined, she refused to read or sign the form. The form states that patients may be recorded for medical education purposes, although there were no signs present in the facility that alerted patients that they were being recorded.

Fairview Southdale Hospital cooperated with CMS staff and explained that 8 video cameras had been installed in the rooms utilized for psychiatric evaluations because of an increase in violent incidents in 2017. While the footage from the cameras could be viewed in the nursing station, it was not visible to members of the public. The video of the woman was only retained as she had also made a complaint against the hospital, otherwise the footage would have been deleted.

The CMS cited the hospital for the privacy violation. The hospital has now retrained nurses and has instructed them to verbally notify patients that they are being filmed and from this month, footage of patients will not be recorded. The hospital has also installed privacy screens to ensure patients cannot be observed while changing. The cameras are still in use, but will only be used for safety and medical education purposes.