May 07, 2020

OCR Issues Guidance on Media Access to Healthcare Facilities During COVID-19

On May 5, OCR published guidance for healthcare providers relating to media and film crew access to healthcare facilities where patients and protected health information (PHI) may be visible. The guidance states that the COVID-19 public health emergency does not alter HIPAA’s existing restrictions on disclosures of PHI to the media. Even if a film crew guarantees that patients will be blurred out of the film footage, healthcare providers must obtain the patient's authorization before filming begins. OCR Director Roger Severino stated that "obscuring faces after the fact just doesn’t cut it.” After obtaining the appropriate patient authorizations, healthcare providers may permit a film crew to record, provided that other reasonable safeguards are in place, such as installing computer monitor privacy screens and setting up opaque barriers to block the film crew’s access to the PHI of patients who did not sign an authorization.