Hospitals pay HHS $1M after reality show filming results in HIPAA violation

Three hospitals have reached separate settlements with federal officials for potential HIPAA violations after the hospitals opened their doors to a reality show that filmed trauma patients without their consent, HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced on Thursday.

The allegations

According to HHS, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Boston Medical Center allowed crew members from ABC's "Save My Life: Boston Trauma" into their hospitals for filming. However, during the process, HHS alleges crew members filmed trauma patients without their consent, potentially compromising the privacy of patients' protected health information.

HHS settlement

HHS on Thursday said the agency reached separate settlement agreements with each hospital to resolve potential HIPAA violations stemming from the filming. The payments totaled nearly $1 million, with  Massachusetts General paying $515,000, Brigham and Women's paying $384,000, and Boston Medical Center paying $100,000.

Under the terms of the settlements, the three hospitals must train staff on HIPAA as part of a "corrective action plan," Modern Healthcare reports.

This is the second time ABC was involved in a HIPAA case related to a medical documentary, according to HHS. In 2016, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital paid HHS a $2.2 million settlement for filming and airing a patient's death on ABC's show "NY Med" without consent.

In a statement, Roger Severino, director of the Office of Civil Rights, said, "Hospitals must get authorization from patients before allowing strangers to have access to patients and their medical information" (Baker, Axios, 9/21; Luthi, Modern Healthcare, 9/20; Thielking, "Morning Rounds," STAT News, 9/21; HHS release, 9/20).

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