Do Hospital Rooms Have Cameras? FAQ From Staff and Patients

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Written by Katherine Zheng, PhD, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Aldo Zilli, Esq. Senior Manager, B2B Content, IntelyCare
A surveillance camera in the hallway of a hospital.

It’s quite common for healthcare facilities to install cameras for basic surveillance. Usually, these cameras are placed in public spaces to help prevent crime and theft. However, cameras can sometimes be used to monitor private rooms as well. This is why patients often ask questions like Do hospital rooms have cameras? and What are my rights to privacy?

If your staff are faced with these types of questions, it’s important for them to understand how to address them appropriately. To provide a helpful reference, we’ll outline answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on the use of cameras in hospital rooms.

Do hospitals have cameras in the rooms?

Each state has different laws dictating what types of hospital facilities and rooms can have cameras. In general, though, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires staff to obtain written consent from patients or their legal guardians before installing cameras in their rooms. Additionally, cameras can typically be used for specific medical or safety-related reasons.

Why do hospital rooms have cameras?

As a patient or their legal guardian is deciding whether to provide consent, they may also ask your staff, Why is there a camera in my hospital room? To comply with HIPAA, facility staff should be fully transparent on why a camera is being used in a patient’s room. This can be very case-specific, but here are a few common reasons that patients might require continuous monitoring:

  • They’re at high-risk of self-harm or harming others.
  • They require critical medical surveillance.
  • They’re at high-risk of falling or wandering.
  • There is suspicion of illegal activity occurring in the room.

Do patient surveillance cameras violate HIPAA?

While hospital room cameras can be used to support the health and safety of patients, they can also increase the risk of privacy issues. Generally, staff should be fully trained on HIPAA-compliant uses of surveillance cameras. Beyond recording patients without proper consent, HIPAA prohibits:

  • Camera surveillance in bathrooms and changing rooms.
  • Recording documents displaying protected health information.
  • Unauthorized access or sharing of video recordings.

Even a seemingly harmless video of a staff member celebrating their birthday at work could inadvertently capture protected health information on computer screens, desk areas, or other background areas.

What do hospital room cameras look like?

Some patients may worry that they’re being secretly recorded with a hidden camera. It’s important to reassure them that they cannot be recorded without written consent, and hidden cameras are generally not permitted (except under very specific, legal circumstances).

In the public areas of a hospital, cameras are usually visible with accompanying signs stating that those within the vicinity are being monitored. If a camera is being used in a patient’s room, they should also be made aware of where it’s installed.

Do ER rooms have cameras?

It’s common for emergency room (ER) departments to have surveillance cameras in waiting areas, since urgent care centers are easily accessed by the public. However, the same rules apply: Patients must provide written consent if cameras are to be placed in their private rooms.

Can hospital cameras record audio?

Beyond asking, Do hospital rooms have cameras? Your patients might also be wondering whether cameras are capturing their conversations. In very specific (and rare) cases, physicians may use camera equipment to communicate with patients in confined rooms.

Beyond this, audio recordings are generally prohibited since they can increase the risk of privacy issues and unintended eavesdropping. Depending on the laws of your state, recording a conversation might require the consent of everyone being recorded, which could include a wide range of medical staff, family members, and other visitors who may be in and out of a patient’s room. If a camera is placed in a patient’s room, they should usually only provide basic video surveillance to avoid these legal landmines.

Who has access to camera recordings?

Patients who consent to being recorded may also have concerns about how their footage will be used. HIPAA requires that authorized staff should only access or view footage to carry out essential job functions. This can also include security or administrative personnel — but all relevant staff must be fully trained on HIPAA compliance procedures.

What other laws govern video surveillance in hospitals?

Beyond HIPAA, there are more state-specific laws that can impact when and how hospitals can use video recordings. For example, some states allow the use of cameras in private nursing home rooms. However, the exact requirements for recording residents can vary greatly from state to state.

It’s important to double check your local policies or consult with a lawyer prior to setting up video surveillance at your facility. This can help you provide more accurate information to your patients and minimize the risk of privacy-related issues.

Discover More Ways to Support Your Patients

Now that you can answer the question, Do hospital rooms have cameras? You may be seeking other ways to foster trust between your staff and patients. Our expert-written articles provide the information you need, when you need it — at no cost to you.

Legal Disclaimer: This article contains general legal information, but it is not intended to constitute professional legal advice for any particular situation and should not be relied on as professional legal advice. Any references to the law may not be current, as laws regularly change through updates in legislation, regulation, and case law at the federal and state level. Nothing in this article should be interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions, you should seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.