Are video cameras allowed in nursing homes?

Hidden camera: where is the hospital allowed to monitor - and where are the limits?

| Spectacular crimes often result in one requirement: the expansion of video surveillance. More and more cameras are also being installed in clinics in order to film waiting areas, entrance halls and gates, but also recovery rooms or baby wards. A complete observation seems to make sense in the case of suicide-prone patients, for example. But are such monitoring measures generally permissible - or are there areas of the clinic in which “Big Brother” is prohibited? |

Surveillance affects the rights of staff and patients

Video surveillance generates highly sensitive data that is recorded. However, every citizen has a "basic data protection right" - the right to informational self-determination - which allows us to decide for ourselves how personal data are used and disclosed. However, patients often cannot determine for themselves which hospital they are admitted to. They unintentionally expose themselves to video surveillance there and in fact can hardly evade it.

The rights of clinic employees are also affected if they are filmed during their professional activity. Since the recording and storage of the image material always interferes with the personal rights of patients, doctors, nurses, employees or visitors, it must be carefully considered whether the purpose pursued with the monitoring actually outweighs the impaired personal rights.

The Federal Data Protection Act regulates video surveillance

The admissibility of video surveillance in privately owned hospitals is to be measured against the regulations of the Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG). For clinics under public law, on the other hand, the data protection laws of the respective federal state are decisive. This also applies to cases in which the public institution makes use of structures under private law to fulfill its tasks - for example, for municipal hospitals that have the legal form of a GmbH.

Although the individual data protection regulations with regard to video surveillance differ from state to state, there are generally comparable principles as in the BDSG. The same applies to the respective data protection laws of the churches, which can generally issue their own regulations for their institutions: These too are predominantly based on the principles of the BDSG. The following statements therefore only take into account the legal situation according to the BDSG.

Public spaces: tight conditions for surveillance

Section 6b of the Federal Data Protection Act permits the "observation of publicly accessible rooms with optical-electronic equipment", i.e. surveillance cameras, only under precisely defined conditions. The text of the law reads:

It is therefore crucial first of all which areas of a hospital are “publicly accessible rooms”: These are clearly the entrance hall, stairwells, parking spaces, the waiting area or the way to the accident clinic - areas that can be entered by everyone. The video surveillance of these rooms is therefore to be measured against § 6b BDSG. The following three prerequisites must be met here.

1st stage: Recognized observation purpose

The video surveillance must first pursue one of the three purposes of § 6b BDSG. For hospitals, the exercise of house rules (No. 2) comes into consideration. The cameras typically used to monitor gates, entrance halls, waiting rooms and corridors are therefore usually legitimized to protect house rules. In addition, video surveillance can be used to safeguard legitimate interests (No. 3). This refers to non-material, economic or legal interests, such as protection against theft or avoidance of vandalism. This also includes the protection of people with dementia in old people's and nursing homes. On the other hand, saving personnel is not a sufficient justification for using cameras.

2nd stage: Video surveillance must be required

There cannot be a reasonable alternative to surveillance that is just as effective but less interfering with the rights of patients and staff. For hospitals, for example, the question arises whether regular patrols in sensitive areas might not be a means that interferes less with patient rights. It would also be conceivable to use security personnel to maintain house rules. However, given the size of hospitals, this should not regularly guarantee equivalent protection or be unreasonable due to the associated high costs. In any case, the following applies: It must first be checked whether measures that are less burdensome than video surveillance can be considered.

3rd stage: The balance of interests decides

Even if the requirements of levels 1 and 2 are met, video surveillance may still be inadmissible - for example if the people filmed have higher-value interests worthy of protection. The guiding rule is: interests worthy of protection almost always outweigh any sensitive data - such as health data - or insights into highly personal areas that affect the private sphere are made possible. Video surveillance of publicly accessible visitor toilets is therefore prohibited, even if the camera is used to protect against theft.

No regulation for non-public spaces

However, it does not regulate the video surveillance of non-public rooms, i.e. those that can only be entered by a certain group of people - such as patient rooms, offices, technical rooms or treatment rooms. It does not depend on a factual access option such as an unlocked door, but on the people for which the respective room is intended. In such rooms without public traffic, surveillance by video cameras is not provided for by law.

Video recordings are only allowed in exceptional cases

However, the lack of a specific legal regulation does not mean that surveillance is generally prohibited in non-public areas of a clinic; however, higher demands are made here than for the surveillance of public spaces. Video surveillance is therefore only permitted in absolutely exceptional cases - unless the parties concerned expressly consent to it.

The recovery room or the baby ward are often monitored

Such an exceptional case, which justifies surveillance, is, for example, the transmission of images from the recovery room to another room for observation: this also creates personal data, but the collection is justified by the absolute necessity of complete surveillance. For the same reason, monitoring of infant wards may be necessary.

The principle of data minimization and avoidance applies to all monitoring measures: According to this, as little personal data as possible should be generated and this should - if possible - be used anonymously. Recordings are to be deleted immediately as soon as they are no longer required for the intended purpose.