Thursday, May 10, 2007

Does AstraZeneca use of patient image violate HIPAA?

The AstraZeneca Oncology Newsletter "which keeps on giving" has a number of photos on the front page.

One of the images has the caption, "Below Left: Lynn Mariano-Hons, Onc 3, at a Breast Cancer Awareness Event."

The AstraZeneca "Fantastic 7" whistleblowers have provided a slightly altered photo (below), with crime tape, hiding the identity of the patient.

Because here's the potential problem with that photo:

If the second person is a patient, (and the metal pole to carry intravenous injections suggests this), then is this a violation of HIPAA law protecting patient privacy?

If the patient in the image signed a written release to have her image printed in AstraZeneca's newsletter, then AstraZeneca is free and clear.

Considering the many problems associated with this newsletter, I think we can all agree that if I bet a million bucks that AstraZeneca can't produce such a release, I'm likely to get rich very quick.

Not that AstraZeneca would take me up on that offer.

But, of course, if AstraZeneca presents such a release I will publicly apologize for my suspicious mind, stop blogging about AstraZeneca for a full week, and publish said media release instantly.

Stay tuned.

And even without HIPAA law, any person who appears in a picture in a commercial context should sign a media release, to protect the company from claims of "invasion of privacy."

It isn't likely the lady in the image knows this, so AstraZeneca should be just fine. Or should they?

1 comment:

. said...

Peter, Great post. I would like a .1% of that bet. I think the patient looks elderly. It makes sense that a nice looking, kind, rep like the woman pictured, probably, made the "patient" feel very happy about the kind attention she was getting. She probably said "take all the pictures you want, honey." That oral agreement, probably would stand up in court. Although you are right, they need written consent for HIPAA, verbal is not sufficient.