Patient webcam raises privacy issues

A recent incident in which parents installed their own webcam in their child's hospital room has raised a host of thorny privacy issues among hospital staff, observers and the medical community at large. Parents of a child at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute had placed a webcam in the child's room, a step they took so that a distant relative could check in on the child during its extended stay there. When a nurse discovered and reported the webcam installation, the family's oncologist asked the parents to remove it. The incident came to light shortly thereafter when the oncologist blogged on the issue.

Such episodes could become more frequent as ubiquitous wireless Internet access becomes standard at hospitals, but it may take time for hospital administrators to take notice. At present, observers say, few facilities have an existing policy on webcams, though CIOs contacted by The Boston Herald said that they wouldn't support their presence. However, privacy advocates noted that as long as the camera only captured the patient (rather than staff or, particularly, other patients), they didn't believe that such cameras violated HIPAA rules.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this article from the Boston Herald