A federal Medicare investigation has found that Fairview Southdale Hospital violated the privacy rights of certain patients by taping them without their knowledge during psychiatric evaluations in the emergency department.
The investigation centered on a woman who was taken to the emergency room of the Edina hospital against her will in May 2017 because police officers feared she might harm herself or others, according to a summary document released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The woman discovered the taping because she had requested security camera footage from the hospital as part of a federal lawsuit regarding her emergency room admission and treatment by police.
The patient had expected footage only of the hospital entrance and said she was "shocked that they videotaped me the whole time I was there," according to the CMS report. "[The patient] stated the videotape was 'horrifying to her' and there was no marking in the room to tell her she was being recorded."
A Fairview official told investigators that cameras had been added to eight psychiatric evaluation rooms in response to an increase in the number of violent patients over the previous year. Cameras were routinely used in three of those rooms, which had no signs warning that the patients were being taped. The monitor for the cameras is in the emergency room nursing station and out of public view.
A consent form for treatment did mention that taping was possible for the purposes of medical education, but the patient in this case didn't see that because she refused to sign the form or submit to treatment.
The video captured her changing into hospital scrubs during her emergency room stay, though only her back was visible.
A security official told investigators that the tape had been archived only because the woman also filed a complaint against the hospital.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, a hospital spokesman said: "Fairview is deeply committed to providing safe, high-quality patient care and protecting the rights of all patients. In situations such as this, we work closely with regulatory agencies to promptly and thoroughly investigate concerns raised and take appropriate action to ensure we are fully compliant and indeed exceed expectations of those we serve moving forward."
Sue Abderholden, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said she doesn't believe video recording of patients is a widespread practice in Minnesota hospitals.
But medical centers that choose to monitor patients for security reasons should make every effort to notify them, Abderholden said.
"If you're going to do it, there should be a sign and you should orally tell the person," she said.
As of this month, Fairview has discontinued video recordings, but will continue video monitoring of patients for medical education or safety.
The hospital also has trained nurses to verbally instruct patients about video monitoring, and installed privacy screens in its ER rooms with cameras.