Best Practices for Body-Worn Cameras at Your Healthcare Facility

Body-worn cameras (BWC) are now being used more frequently by law enforcement officers across the country. Nearly 80% of larger police departments and 47% of smaller departments utilize BWC, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report. While increased use of BWC is mainly due to the need for evidence during confrontations with the public, this practice can also create questions and concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality.

In this article, we’ll discuss best practices that your organization can utilize to manage the use of BWC in your facility. We’ll also focus on certain aspects of HIPAA and how you can ensure body-worn camera incidents do not cause violations that could be problematic for your healthcare facility.

Partner with Law Enforcement to Discuss BWC and Video Footage

Unfortunately, there is a gap in knowledge about the use of body-worn cameras in healthcare facilities. One good way to fix this problem is to schedule time with law enforcement leaders in your community to discuss your healthcare organization’s responsibilities for complying with HIPAA laws to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. By working closely with law enforcement officials, you can develop effective policies and processes to help ensure the best outcomes for everyone involved.

Body Worn Camera

Limit Use of BWC

Start by developing guidelines for the use of BWC in your facility, then communicate these to law enforcement. While law enforcement agencies do not fall under HIPAA rules, your organization is still responsible for implementing safeguards to protect the privacy and confidentiality of patients. It’s a good idea to create specific limitations on when BWC can be turned on within your facility – such as when responding to or walking up on an incident.

Language should be included that gives the responsible provider the authority to request video recording be discontinued if it presents a barrier to patient care. In addition, the rights of providers should be respected if they request to not be recorded.

Security of BWC Video

It’s vital to understand that when it comes to BWC video, it is not the recording of patients that is the concern – it’s the management of that video after it is obtained. As such, if your organization employs security personnel who wear BWC provided by the hospital, the stored video should be encrypted and secured the same way as any of your other digital media.

However, if law enforcement responds to an event and utilizes BWC, that video belongs to them as official evidence – and they are responsible for the management of the video. That’s why it just makes good sense for your healthcare organization to provide training and education related to HIPAA and organizational policy to law enforcement officials.

Should a public request ever be made to law enforcement for a copy of a recording, you should ask that your organization be alerted before the release of the video so you can review it beforehand. There is a possibility that images of other patients were captured on the video – which would be considered incidental disclosures. However, your organization may request the video be redacted to remove these images.

The Importance of HIPAA Education for Law Enforcement

HIPAA does not affect law enforcement agencies directly since it centers on the protection of PHI. However, it’s in the best interest of your healthcare organization to provide law enforcement with some basic training on HIPAA to help ensure compliance.

Some ideas for training and education for law enforcement include:

  • Develop a one-page tip sheet outlining the use of BWC in your facility.
  • Have your staff record a training video that can be shown to members of law enforcement.
  • And don’t forget that HIPAA extends beyond video footage – so include information about not recording with personal cell phones and not chatting about patients outside of the healthcare organization.

Once you develop a policy regarding the use of BWC within your facility, be sure to follow through with scheduling time with local law enforcement officials to discuss the policy and explain pertinent HIPAA issues.

Protect Your Patients and Your Facility

With the prevalence of body-worn camera technologies in today’s world, developing a BWC policy for your facility and partnering with law enforcement is more important than ever. You can learn more about BWC best practices and other security issues in our guide for Healthcare Security Response Officers. There’s also a wealth of information about BWC in healthcare facilities in this research paper by the IAHSS Foundation. The IAHSS document also includes an extensive bibliography of related BWC resource materials.

By acting today on the issue of body-worn cameras in your facility, you can help ensure you are protecting both your patients and your organization from potential problems in the future.

Interested in more healthcare security resources? Our Security in Healthcare toolkit provides best practices, all-hazards risk assessments, sample policies, and other resources that guide organizations in planning effective security programs.

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