Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Discusses Intersection Of Video Surveillance And A Patient’s Right To Privacy

In Kansas and Missouri, video surveillance is more pervasive than ever. Surveillance cameras were once only found in convenience stores and retail outlets as a means to curtail robbery and shoplifting. With the advent of less expensive yet highly sophisticated surveillance equipment, you should expect to be captured by the eye-in-the-sky. Video monitoring can be found in places in which you would not expect surveillance such as doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, and therapists’ offices. Conducting surveillance of the movements of patients in a setting in which the right to privacy is sacrosanct at first blush seems to be the ultimate invasion of privacy. However, the health care provider need not sit idly by if unscrupulous employees or patients plunder their business and may take steps to prevent or record criminal behavior. If you are a healthcare provider in Kansas or Missouri, professional licensing attorney Danielle Sanger can guide you toward creating a safe environment which does not compromise the privacy of your patients while maintaining the security of your business.

The electorate in Kansas and Missouri enacted similar criminal statutes prohibiting invasion of a person’s privacy through electronic means by capturing audio, or photographic depictions of a person in a place in which the person would believe is private. A criminal invasion of privacy in either state by capturing a person’s likeness involves filming someone in a state of undress or in such a manner as to see through clothing or under it. The statutes focus on prohibiting recording people unwittingly. These laws do not prevent recording people with their consent or in areas in which they do not reasonably expect absolute privacy. Consequently, a surveillance camera in the examination room that captures a person undressing or in a state of undress would violate the statute and be grounds for criminal prosecution. In 2011, a Long Island, NY physician faced criminal charges for installing cameras in exam rooms. The cameras captured the doctor sexually assaulting his female patients. Such behavior is quite obviously criminal and violative of any ethical rule.

Recording common hallways, cash registers, checkouts, medicine cabinets and the like would not be cause for criminal sanction under the current statutory scheme in either jurisdiction. The more probing question is whether doing so violates patients’ rights to privacy, amounting to an ethics violation.  The short answer is: it depends on the circumstances on how the cameras and the recorded information is used, bearing in mind the obligation to prevent unauthorized access to recorded materials.

Medical and mental health practitioners understand that the duty to maintain the privacy of their patients is sacrosanct.  The healthcare professional may face ethical sanctions for a violation of privacy. Additionally, the healthcare professional may suffer ethical penalties for committing unprofessional behavior or acts that call into question whether the public may trust the healthcare provider. Consequently, any covert recordings that compromise a patient’s rights to privacy may amount to an ethical violation. Hypothetically, if a physician’s surveillance system captured a patient’s medical records, the physician could be in danger of facing an ethics inquiry because the patient has a right to privacy in the information contained within those records. Further complicating matters is the question of storage and surveillance video maintenance. The healthcare provider must maintain the video records in a manner that does not disclose private patient information. Consequently, healthcare providers must guard against illegal access to electronic video files.

Consult With An Experienced Professional Licensing Attorney Before Installing Surveillance Cameras In Your Office

In most instances, maintaining surveillance cameras in a healthcare providers’ office will not create an ethical violation, especially if the providers conspicuously posts a notice of surveillance in common areas. Do not act before having all of your questions resolved. Kansas and Missouri Professional Licensing Attorney Danielle Sanger possesses vast experience in representing healthcare professionals. Call Attorney Sanger today at 785-979-4353 to schedule a consultation to learn how you can ethically protect your business assets.