CMS to crack down on facilities' photo, video abuse policies

Nursing home surveyors will soon review facilities' policies on staff members' social media abuses following several high-profile reports into the issue, federal officials announced Friday.

In a memo to state survey agency directors, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shared that surveyors will request and review nursing homes' policies and procedures to prevent staff from taking and distributing photos or videos that “demean or humiliate a resident.” The reviews will begin with the next standard survey 30 days after the memo's release, CMS said.

“Each nursing home must establish and enforce an environment that encourages individuals to report allegations of abuse without fear of recrimination or intimidation,” the memo reads. “The nursing home management must assure that all staff are aware of reporting responsibilities, including how to identify possible abuse and how to report any allegations of abuse.”

The memo also includes guidance for surveyors on investigating complaints of photo or video-related abuse of residents, and reporting any offending staff members to state licensing authorities.

The CMS memo follows media reports and calls from lawmakers criticizing the growing number of incidents involving nursing home workers posting photos and videos of residents to social media applications, including Snapchat.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), who has been at the forefront of legislative efforts to curb social media abuse among nursing home workers, said in a press release the new CMS guidance is “welcome and necessary.”

“Nursing homes are obligated under the law to keep their residents free from abuse,” Grassley said. “Exploitation on social media is a form of abuse, and the agency memo makes that clear. We need to prevent it, and we need to punish it when it happens.”