Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) recently sent a letter to the Department of Human Services' Office of Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces HIPAA, citing his concerns for the apparently growing number of instances where nursing home employees have posted inappropriate pictures and videos of residents on social media platforms. Questioning how OCR is addressing this issue, Sen. Carper specifically instructed OCR to report on the number of complaints received on these incidents, any investigations undertaken, and the penalties levied. Senator Carper also requested details on OCR's plans to issue guidance to covered entities on social media mattes as they relate to HIPAA, and whether it has engaged in any discussions with CMS in conjunction with the proposed revisions to the Requirements of Participation for long term care facilities.
The OCR continues to increase its HIPAA enforcement efforts, and Senator Carper's request may provide another potential avenue of investigation for the OCR. If your organization has yet to develop a Social Media Policy governing the conduct of employees and those with access to residents/patients, we strongly encourage you to do so in order to comply with your obligations as a covered entity under HIPAA.
If you would like to discuss this issue in greater detail, please do not hesitate to contact us at (717) 620-2424.