12 October 2018

Three Boston-Area Hospitals Settle HIPAA Allegations Arising From On-Site Filming of Television Documentary

Three Boston-area hospitals collectively paid just under $1 million to settle allegations that they violated HIPAA by improperly disclosing patients’ identities and other protected health information during onsite filming of a television network documentary.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s September 20, 2018 press release, the three hospitals – Boston Medical Center (BMC), Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) – permitted film crews to film an ABC television network documentary series on premises without first obtaining authorizations from patients.  Collectively, the three hospitals paid $999,000 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, with BMC paying $100,000, BWH paying $384,000, and MGH paying $515,000.

In addition to the settlement payments, the hospitals agreed to provide workforce training on filming patients for non-clinical purposes, according to a corrective action plan entered into in connection with the settlement.

This case is similar to an April 2016 HIPAA case in which New York-Presbyterian paid $2.2 million to settle allegations that it violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule by improperly disclosing patient PHI in association with the on premises filming of another ABC hospital drama, “NY Med.”

OCR has posted guidance on its website on disclosures to film and media, available here.

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