Secret Surveillance Approved Inside Patient's Room

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Mar 26, 2014

The family of an elderly man found a hidden camera in his hospital room. Already frustrated from what they felt was substandard care, they were outraged when they noticed the camera in a fake smoke detector mounted to the ceiling.

It prompted both a VA investigation and the creation of a bill aimed at restricting cameras in veteran’s hospital rooms. The investigation uncovered emails and hospital records that show the hospital was concerned that his family members interfering with his care.

In this post we review the investigation and its impact on the use of surveillance cameras.

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Comments (4)

Yes. Especially for older patients who are more susceptible to getting infections in hospitals and who may not be in their right minds. Someone suffering dementia may very likely fiddle with their own feeding tubes, IV drips, etc. Having a camera in a patient room also allows one nurse to monitor multiple rooms and is hardly an uncommon practice in non-VA hospitals.

What is curious about this case is the reason the VA installed the camera in the first place. It looks like they were trying to gather evidence of family misbehavior to use in their defense in a lawsuit, but it's just as easy to spin it into a case where the hospital administration was concerned about a specific patient's safety based on incidents and inventory counts.

Case by case basis, and they should run their reasons by a lawyer first.

Maybe one day there will be clearly defined paramters that cover special circumstances where, as Kathleen pointed out, the patient may intentionaly or unintentionaly harm themselves, that allows a hospital to automatically video monitor a patient. Then for other cases where nefarious activity is suspected, a procedure the hospital can follow to get approval from a 3rd party, impartial entity for surveillance, similar to the way law enforcement is required to justify a warrant or injunction from a judge.

Where I think the hospital made a mistake was using a covert camera. A camera in plain view could be argued that safety was the only concern of the hospital. A covert camera means the hospotal went beyond the concern for safety into the realm of criminal investigation. If they suspected the man's family of interferering with his care, they should have notified police and left it up to police to justify and run a covert camera.

Actually, it should not be hidden and should be required for all patients and video provided to hopital and the patient upon request.

I have installed a hidden camera in a labor delivery wing where there was suspected ongoing family issues. Don't know of they actually ever used it. Was 10 years ago.

I just finished installing 28 cameras in patient rooms feeding three dvrs with the monitors located in the stations where the vital signs are monitored. They are for baker act patients, but many times the rooms are used for other patients. The dvrs have no hard drives, recording is against Hippa regulations. A patient has already complained and we now have to train the staff on how to mask views. This is a cost saver as a staff member has to sit in those rooms 24 hours unless there is another way to monitor the patient. I have done this probably 15 times in hospitals over the years.

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