Patient Rights Violated on Social Media

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Inappropriate Social Media Posts Involving Nursing Home Residents 

Over the last decade, as the popularity of social media platforms increased, so have incidents which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers shared inappropriate, abusive, degrading or embarrassing photos and videos that may also sexually exploit residents. For the workers who have been caught, they admit initiating or participating in these acts to being stressed and overworked. Whatever the disgusting motive may be, it violates the residents’ rights, and may be actionable in civil court.

As most states wait for The Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enforce the federal patient privacy law known as HIPAA related to social media exposure, a simple checklist was developed by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) for nursing homes to follow. This checklist should be reviewed by all nursing home employees often so residents’ rights to privacy (at-the-least) are upheld. Family members should start asking to review this list upon entering a new partnership with a home on behalf of their loved one.

  • Keep personal social media accounts separate from care center accounts.
  • Avoid “friending” residents or families.
  • Recognize that even a deleted post text message or picture can still exist in cyberspace.
  • Understand that posts on a private page can still be accessed by users other than friends or followers.
  • Understand that HIPAA personal identifiers (e.g., pictures, neighborhoods, birth dates, etc.) must remain private.
  • Know that even if a resident posts information, staff should not share in any form this information on their personal pages.
  • Be aware that commenting on a resident’s social media page may go to other friends and individuals.
  • Avoid taking any unauthorized photos of a resident (written authorization is required).
  • Avoid transmitting any electronic media image or recording of a resident.
  • Recognize that any privacy or confidentiality breach must immediately be reported to center management.
  • Refrain from posting any protected information about the care center on social media – in particular, do not use the center logo or trademark.
  • During parties or events, ensure that all resident files or other confidential items are put away before a group photo is taken. Don’t forget to cover the white boards; and obtain the appropriate consent form from the resident and/or family to post the photo.
  • If the resident, his/her family or staff members have any questions about social media, they should be directed to the care center’s management staff.

Levin & Perconti recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 76-year-old man who was humiliated by in a video filmed by nursing home aides employed by Holland Home in South Holland, Illinois. The video itself shows one woman holding her phone and capturing the resident holding his adult diaper while another worker instructs the man to take off his pants. The video was then posted to Facebook Live. The lawsuit alleges physical, sexual, and mental abuse and says that “employees maliciously abused the resident through remorseless taunts, mockery, and lewd suggestions for the purpose of coercing him into taking his pants off and exposing his genitals.”

You can learn more about this sensitive case in an NBC Chicago story featuring Levin & Perconti Attorney, Margaret Battersby Black.

Chicago Injury Lawyers and Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Attorneys

If your loved one has had their rights violated through the use of social media, please do not let it go unnoticed. Report it to nursing home officials, state regulatory bodies, and visit with a local nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to share the story and see what can be done. Consultations are both free and confidential. Please call us at (312) 332-2872 or complete our free online consultation request form.

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