Inquiry Started Over Snapchat Photo Sharing at M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center


Certain workers of a Canandaigua, NY nursing home have been using their smartphones to take photos and videos of at least one inhabitant and have shared those videos and images with others on Snapchat – a breach of HIPAA and a grave breach of patient secrecy.

The secrecy breaches happened at Thompson Health’s M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center and included several workers. Thompson Health has already taken action and has dismissed many employees over the infringements. Now the New York Division of Health and the state attorney general’s office have got involved and are carrying out inquiries.

The state attorney general’s Deputy Press Secretary, Rachel Shippee verified to the Daily Messenger that an inquiry has been started, verifying “The Medicaid Scam Control Unit’s mission contains the safety of nursing home inhabitants from harm, negligence, and maltreatment, including acts that infringe a resident’s human rights to privacy and dignity.”

Thompson Health doesn’t believe the images/videos were shared in public and sharing was limited to a group of workers at the care center. Thompson Health is getting in touch with the families of the inhabitants impacted by the breach to offer an expression of regret.

This is not the first time that Thomson Health has found a worker had taken videos and pictures without people’s knowledge. In January, a camera was found in a unisex bathroom at Thompson Hospital. When the camera was taken down it was found that the memory card had been detached. The issue was informed to law enforcement even though the worker responsible has not been known.

M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center is far from the only nursing home to notice that inhabitants have been videoed and photographed without approval with images and videos shared on social media networks.

An inquiry into the sharing of pictures of misuse of nursing home inhabitants was started by ProPublica in 2015. The investigation disclosed the practice was usual, with numerous nursing home workers found to have carried out similar actions. The inquiry disclosed there had been 22 instances of picture sharing on Snapchat and other social media platforms and 35 instances in total since 2012.

More lately, a nursing helper at the Parkside Manor assisted-living service in Kenosha, WI was found to have taken pictures of an Alzheimer’s patient and posted the pictures of SnapChat. When the breach was found, the nursing assistant was dismissed for the HIPAA breach.

The high number of cases linking these sorts of HIPAA breaches encouraged the CMS to take action in 2016. The CMS dispatched a memo to state health divisions reminding them of their duties to make sure nursing home inhabitants were not subjected to any type of abuse, including mental abuse like the taking of degrading and demeaning videos and photos and having the multimedia contents shared on social media networks.