Violations of Privacy in Nursing Homes

Nursing home residents are afforded very specific rights to privacy. If the nursing home aides or administration or another resident violates those rights and the victim sustains damages as a result, the victim can sue.

Violations of privacy nursing home injury claims are a complex area of the law. You’ll want to discuss your case with an attorney to see if your situation qualifies for a lawsuit and what steps to take to hold the nursing home responsible for their actions.

Residents’ Rights to Privacy and Confidentiality

Washington Administrative Code 388-97-0360 provides that nursing home residents have the right to personal privacy and confidentiality of their personal and clinical records. Nursing homes are required to keep all of the following information confidential.

  • Accommodations
  • Medical treatments
  • Written and telephone communications
  • Personal care
  • Visits
  • Meetings with family and resident groups

Also, residents retain the right to approve or refuse the release of personal and clinical records to anyone outside the nursing home. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA echoes these rights, laying down the laws that are meant to ensure, among other protections, privacy and confidentiality of identifiable health and treatment information.

Privacy Rights Infringement

In 2013, there were nearly 13,000 complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for HIPAA violations, and that figure is steadily rising, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Increased violations of privacy are largely attributed to the fact that medical records are now digitalized and electronically available (and poorly encrypted) and the presence of social media. High-profile cases, i.e., those of famous individuals, are particularly commonplace. Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum noted, “The rate of data breach is not acceptable. It’s a big deal because privacy exists in the details.”

Disclosing any information about residents’ care or treatment to unauthorized parties is unlawful. Period. Unfortunately, nursing home facilities don’t always meet this standard. Below are just a few examples of privacy violations against nursing home residents.

  • Nurses who post patient information on Facebook. There have been highly publicized cases of nurses getting fired for snapping pictures of patients and posting them, or making disparaging comments about residents’ condition on social media
  • Nursing home workers who leak patient information to unauthorized parties. They might give visitors updates about the patient’s status or disclose diagnostic info
  • Nursing home workers who steal personal information for the purposes of fraud or identity theft
  • Nurses who review resident’s files without proper authority

Not all violation of privacy and confidentiality are intentional. With cloud technologies, doctors often can access patient information remotely. Patient info can be leaked inadvertently, for instance, if the doctor’s laptop gets stolen or if hackers decrypt nursing home databases.

Legal Options for Nursing Home Privacy Violations

There isn’t a federal law that enables victims to sue specifically for HIPAA violations. However, there is a state law that gives nursing home residents the legal authority to file a suit against the nursing home for violations of privacy or confidentiality if they suffered damages as a result.

Invasion of privacy is not only disrespectful and embarrassing, but it also can be a serious cause for concern in regards to identity theft, quality of care and financial protection. If you or your loved one’s right to privacy was thwarted at a nursing home, you might be able to recover damages including the following.

  • Economic damages related the breach of privacy and exposure of your information
  • Damage to reputation and standing in the community
  • Mental or emotional distress

Free Consultation with a Nursing Home Injury Attorney in Washington

If you feel a nursing home violated your loved one’s rights, you are welcome to call Ron Meyers & Associates PLLC for a free case evaluation. Call us today at 844-920-2438 and let us help you determine the best legal avenue for recovery.