UCLA hospital bans cellphones, laptops

UCLA hospital bans cellphones, laptops
UCLA hospital bans cellphones, laptops,1,2660676.story 

By Charles Ornstein
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 18, 2008

UCLA's neuropsychiatric hospital has banned all cellphones and laptop 
computers after a patient posted group photos of other patients on a 
social networking website, officials confirmed Monday.

Dr. Thomas Strouse, medical director of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric 
Hospital, said in a statement that the decision was part of "UCLA Health 
System's ongoing efforts to enhance patient privacy and confidentiality 
in compliance with California's patient rights law."

Separately, The Times reported last week that UCLA was taking steps to 
fire at least 13 workers and had suspended six others for 
inappropriately snooping in the electronic medical records of pop star 
Britney Spears while she was a patient in the neuropsychiatric hospital. 
In addition, six doctors were being disciplined. (Those slated to be 
fired did not look at records from Spears' psychiatric stay but rather 
from her prior visits to UCLA.)

Spears was not featured in the photos posted online.

UCLA spokeswoman Dale Tate said the hospital became aware of the posted 
photos coincidentally from a nurse's family member. The patients 
apparently all gave their consent to be photographed, Tate said.

"I was concerned about the potential covert use of such cameras, without 
the consent of those being photographed, or under circumstances where 
someone's agreement to be photographed might not be well-reasoned or 
fully competent," Strouse said in the statement.

Patients continue to have access to conventional telephones in the 
hospital, and Strouse said their ability to keep in touch with family 
and friends should not be affected.

In a March 3 memo announcing the ban, Strouse wrote that he did not want 
to ask staff members to check whether cellphones or laptops had cameras, 
so he decided to ban them all.

Other hospitals have banned cellphone cameras as well. Rady Children's 
Hospital in San Diego forbade employees from carrying cellphones in 
patient-care areas after investigators found images of children, taken 
at the hospital, on a respiratory therapist's computer and cellphone. 
The therapist later pleaded guilty to child molestation and exhibiting a 
minor in pornography. Visitors can have cellphones, but "if they're 
using the camera feature on their cellphones, they're only allowed to 
take pictures of their child and nobody else," hospital spokesman Ben 
Metcalf said.

Officials at the California Hospital Assn. said they are hearing more 
and more hospitals express concern over how to deal with cellphone 
cameras. "There's been a heightened awareness of the problem for the 
past year or two," said Lois Richardson, the group's vice president and 
legal counsel. "However, I haven't seen any hospitals that have been 
able to come up with a good, workable tactical solution to the problem."

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