No More Baby Pictures in Doctors' Waiting Rooms — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
August 11, 2014

No More Baby Pictures in Doctors' Waiting Rooms

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by Susan Sadoughi, MD, and André Sofair, MD, MPH

Photos of babies that a clinician has delivered are considered protected health information under HIPAA and cannot be displayed in a medical office without written authorization from a parent. A front-page story in Sunday's New York Times puts a spotlight on the issue, with several clinicians weighing in.

Many providers have taken down their photo bulletin boards, albeit reluctantly. Some keep the photos in an album that patients can choose to open. Another, who continues to display baby pictures in an exam room, advocates having "some common sense with this HIPAA business," noting that "it seems strange" to discontinue such a long-standing tradition.

A spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed for the Times that displaying patient photographs (even in a waiting-room photo album) without authorization is illegal. She added that any authorization from a patient or parent must be on a "HIPAA-compliant form, including elements like an expiration date."

Reader Comments (6)

Larry Miller

What has happened to " common sense" . HIPPA drives up the cost of medical care, gives another avenue for disgruntled patients to sue and takes time away from hands on patient care. How long will the medical profession allow themselves to be such patsies?

Anne Phelan-Adams Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice, Consultative Medical Service

Good grief! Has all common sense left us. Next thing you know parents will have to get their infant's permission to announce their gender, birth weight and length.

Daniela Capriles MD Fellow-In-Training, Cardiology

I find this sad to hear that a nice gesture, like keeping pictures of our patients to let them know we care about them and their family is found to be a bad thing. This is what is leading medicine to a less caring profession.


I can see where certain pictures could be a problem, even with parental authorization. Particularly when a child is deceased and the physician and/or other medical personnel are not aware of the death.

Kelly Gardind PhD, APRN, CNS, BC Other Healthcare Professional, Psychiatry, CMH

HIPPA causes no coordination of care between providers, I send a pt (with my lab slip) to the PCP and no one will send me results, I have to take time out of my day to get signatures, fax over, and then re-request lab results after being put on hold for 10 minutes. I bet a lot of people just reorder tests themselves which is a waste of money. My med could cause QTC interval problems, I wanted to call the cardiologist of pt to consult but without a release couldn't do so (per office policy) unable to reach pt to get consent signed, very frustrating. If pts give office photos to post that should be permission enough.

Lee Powers Other Healthcare Professional, Other

Absurd! The interpreters of HIPAA must have had "Stretch Armstong" dolls when they were kids. Coming soon... underground garages with individual private entrances and waiting areas so no person can be seen by any other patient.

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