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These policies do not constitute legal advice. Producers should consult their own legal counsel regarding the relevant statutes to ensure compliance with the law, and are free to implement procedures for compliance in addition to those stated here. Thank you for your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to working with you to ensure compliance with these policies. Feel free to contact the Discovery Communications Legal Department with any questions, comments or concerns.
WHAT IS HIPAA?
“HIPAA” stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. HIPAA is a new federal regulation that applies to “covered entities,”* which are health care services providers: (i) with patients and (ii) that maintain and/or transmit patient information by means of “electronic storage.”** Generally, the regulation is intended to protect and regulate the disclosure of patient information. The law is effective April 14, 2003.
* “Covered Entities” can be hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, possibly ambulances and other emergency services providers.
**”Electronic Storage” can mean maintenance and/or transmission of patient information (including billing or medical information) digitally or by means of computer databases, facsimile machines or other means.
WHAT DOES HIPAA HAVE TO DO WITH TELEVISION PRODUCTIONS?
HIPAA will affect the filming of any patients at locations such as hospitals, ambulances, doctors’ offices and possibly other medical sites. Specifically, there will be certain disclosures and releases required (in addition to a typical appearance release) and these disclosures and/or releases must be obtained prior to filming any patient and prior to obtaining any patient information.
In general, as a producer for any Discovery network, you should, among other things, consult with your lawyer, your Discovery team for the program and:
- Get the “typical” appearance release from the patient. (Note: the use of the patient’s image will be subject to the “Patient Authorization” (described below) but a standard appearance release will still be required);
- Get the hospital (or other “covered entity”) to sign a location release, which includes references to HIPAA. You production manager for the Discovery program may have a sample location release that references HIPAA but that release will be provided to you as guidance only. Begin discussing the location release with the film site well in advance of filming; and
- Understand that the Location Release requires that the hospital (or other covered entity) obtain a separate authorization signed by the patient (“Patient Authorization”), and that Patient Authorization must be delivered to the producer. This Patient Authorization must include certain HIPAA information.
Producers should seek their own legal advice at all times and especially when production includes filming at a “covered entity.” Discovery might provide general guidance on this and other production matters, but Discovery is not your legal advisor. You are legally responsible for all actions and results of your services, including content in your programming.