By: Marianne Harper
Isn’t it sweet when a mom and dad take their child to the dentist for the first time and they are so excited? Dad pulls out his cell phone and starts snapping pictures of this big event in his child’s life. This may seem like a harmless situation but, believe me, it is not! There are several dangerous situations that can develop when photos and/or videos are being taken in a dental practice setting. What may seem like a harmless act has the potential to develop into a problematic situation.
The first and probably most serious aspect of this is that it presents possible HIPAA violations. As photos or videos are being taken of a patient there is the possibility that other patients may be included inadvertently. These photos and videos are quite often shared through social media and this can compromise those patients’ privacy. In addition, staff members of the practice might be included in the photo or video and this violates their privacy. There may also be times when a patient could intentionally take a photo of another patient’s file or of the images displayed on monitors about other patients. As you can see, any of this can be very risky for a dental practice.
In addition, if a patient has a problem with a dental practice and has taken photos or videos, it is possible that the patient could use this out of context to try to prove a point and post it on social media. This could create a huge reputation management problem for the dental practice.
A third concern is allowing staff members to use their cell phones in the clinical or business office areas of the practice. Staff members who, out of curiosity or vengeance, snap pictures of patient data may use it in a manner to hurt the practice.
Therefore it is advisable that a “no photo or video” policy be implemented in dental practices. To implement this policy, a sign needs to be posted advising that no photos or videos are allowed due to patient privacy rights. In addition, if the practice has a website, this notice needs to be displayed there also. With regard to employees, this policy needs to be discussed with all staff members and be included in the practice policy manual.
Marianne Harper is the owner of “The Art of Practice Management”, a dental practice management consulting company. Marianne’s specialty is training dentists and staff members in implementing dental-medical cross coding. Her other specialties areas are business office systems, business forms, and the implementation of systems to lower accounts receivable.