Social Media Abuses in Nursing Homes: You Can’t Believe It!

Aug. 16, 2016 — It’s pretty easy to understand why the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) just announced a crackdown on social media abuses against residents in skilled nursing homes.  It’s because so many media reports are exposing horrible examples of staff members taking embarrassing photos and videos of residents, and then sharing them with friends.   Beginning Sept. 4, state survey and credentialing teams will begin a federally mandated crackdown to enforce protection measures for nursing home residents.

Here is some background to give you an idea of what is taking place:

In December 2015, reports co-published by ProPublica and the Washington Post revealed startling social media abuses within long-term care facilities. Indeed, the findings initially documented 37 incidents since 2012, exposing nursing home workers across the country for posting embarrassing photos of elderly residents on social media. In some cases, residents were partially or completely naked. At least 16 cases involved Snapchat, a social media platform where photos appear a few seconds, and then disappear.

Details of the incidents came from government reports, court cases and stories in the media.

An excerpt from one report on the ProPublica website:                                 

“In February 2014, a nursing assistant at Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Centralia, Wash., sent a co-worker a Snapchat video of a resident sitting on a bedside portable toilet with her pants below her knees while laughing and singing.”

This February at Autumn Care Center in Newark, Ohio, a nursing assistant recorded a video of residents lying in bed as they were coached to say, ‘I’m in love with the coco,’ the lyrics of a gangster rap song (‘coco’ is slang for cocaine). Across a female resident’s chest was a banner that read, ‘Got these hoes trained.’ It was shared on Snapchat.”

In the latter case, the woman’s son told federal investigators that his mother had worked as a church secretary for 30 years, and would have been mortified.

In some cases, employees have faced criminal charges, as the chart below indicates.


Social Media Abuses in Nursing Homes Chart

Meanwhile, in July, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights announced that federal audits have moved into “high gear” under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Those federal audits are in addition to the inspections that state survey teams have now been ordered to conduct.

The charts below include examples of recent settlements under HIPAA:

Slides HIPAA Audits Go High Gear Large Providers

Compiled from government reports by MyHIPAA Guide

Slides HIPAA Audits Go High Gear Small Providers

Compiled from government reports by MyHIPAA Guide

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