Answers to Questions about Photo Release Forms [Download Included]
Photos are a vital part of an effective digital marketing strategy. However, every dental clinic needs to remember they are, first and foremost, a healthcare provider. As such, there are essential photo consent questions to consider before you share any image that contains identifiable features of your patients.
The federal government protects your patients’ right to privacy under the Health Insurance and Accountability Act (more commonly known as HIPAA). HIPAA violations can be very problematic for your practice. Not only do you risk a fine that could potentially extend north of $1 million (yep, you read that right), but you can destroy your patients’ trust in your practice.
Some primary education and innovative marketing measures will help free you from HIPAA privacy breaches. Here are some answers to common questions regarding photo consent and a free photo release form to help you keep all your bases covered!
What Is a Patient Photo Release Form?
A patient photo release form is a document your patient signs to confirm that they give informed consent for their photo to be used by your practice for marketing purposes.
When Is a Photo Release Form Needed for Patients?
Anytime you are publicly using (or even storing) imagery that contains Protected Health Information (PHI) about your patients, you’ll need written (signed) consent.
A photo release form helps you cover all the legal requirements, even if the image isn’t used for marketing purposes. You may utilize it for treatment and documentation, peer education, or a case study to demonstrate the efficacy of a certain treatment. Even if your first purpose isn’t marketing, and even if you’re not sure exactly how identifiable the image of the patient is, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
What Should Be Included in a Photo Release Form?
There are a few important elements that should be included in any photo release form in order to adhere to HIPAA requirements. These include:
- Patient consent, including a signature, legal name, and date. Remember that if the photo contains a minor, permission from a parent or legal guardian must be secured.
- Details of use, whether the photo will be available for marketing purposes, education, or another function. You should also include an expiration date to define when this use is authorized.
- Definition and identification of the parties involved, which will include both the patient and your practice name, or doctor’s name. It may also involve a third party who will receive the information (if it will be shared with a referring doctor, for example.)
- Clear language informing the patient that they have the right to revoke consent and that their quality of care will not be influenced by their decision to release their photo or not.
Are a Photo Release Form and a Photo Consent Form the Same?
In essence, yes. You may also hear it called a HIPAA compliance form, although there are times when a HIPAA compliance form differs in that it addresses the use of something besides photos or videos. For example, if you want to publish a patient review on your website or in your marketing campaign. If the review identifies the patient a HIPAA compliance form is required.
Is a Photo Release Form Needed for Social Media Posts?
Yes, social media posts require dental HIPAA forms. While social media may be considered a casual venue where in-the-moment photos are shared and forgotten about within the week, they are still public marketing materials for your business and contain private health information about your patients.
It may be worth noting that you don’t need to obtain a social media consent form for an image or a review that a patient voluntarily puts on their page and tags your practice. When tagging the photo can then show up on your social media page. By doing so themselves, the patient is assuming responsibility for their own public posting. You only need a photo release form when you are the one posting the content.
Is a Photo Consent Form Needed to Use Patient Photos on Your Website?
Absolutely. Your website must be in compliance with HIPAA guidelines whenever using photos (or words, reviews, videos, etc.) that could lead to the personal identification of your patients. HIPAA compliant websites also take into consideration privacy concerns any time you collect personal information about patients (or prospective patients) on your site, including form uploads, live chats, patient portals, and more.
How Long Is a Patient Consent Form Good for?
A photo release for social media is in effect until the expiration date specified on the form (which, of course, is why you should always make sure to include an expiration date.) There’s no hard and fast rule regarding the time period, but many simply set a period extending one year after the form is signed.
Do I Need a Release Form to Use a Patient’s Written Testimonial on My Website?
Yes. Even if a patient has shared that review on another website, you need permission to share it for your own marketing purposes.
Can I Hire a Professional Photographer and Use Patient Photos Without a Release Form?
Photos taken by a professional photographer are no different from photos taken by your team when it comes to patient consent. The photographer could have their own release form that they use, but you’re responsible for using and saving a photo release form that conforms with HIPAA compliance rules. If there are no patients in the photos and the photography only features your office, your team, and models, then you don’t need to worry about HIPAA compliance.
Does a Digital Signature From a Patient Qualify as Consent for Use?
Yes, digital signatures on digital forms are legally valid in all U.S. states. In fact, e-signatures on a photo release consent form for social media are often more secure than physical signatures.
Are Medical Professionals Required to Get a Photo Release for Patients’ Photos?
There are some patient pictures that don’t need a photo release form. For example, if the photo is only used internally to improve patient care, you don’t need a patient signature. However, the photo still needs to be stored in a secure, encrypted location. And of course, if the photo is used for anything public (such as social media or your website), you’ll need permission.
Do I Need to Get a Signed Consent Form to Use Patient Videos in Marketing?
If you are uploading the video yourself, then yes. The same rules about patient photos apply to patient videos.
Is a Signed Signature Required for a Photo Release to Meet the Demands of HIPAA?
A signature from the patient is necessary for a social media photo release form to be valid. However, the signature doesn’t need to be handwritten in order to be effective. E-signatures and even clicking an “I Agree” button can qualify and make the form valid.
What Is the Difference Between a HIPAA Consent Form and a Photo Release Form?
A HIPAA consent form and photo release form could be identical in some cases. Overall, a photo release form will be specifically about a photo or other media asset, whereas HIPAA consent forms may include consent for reviews, case studies, testimonials, and more.
How Does a Model Release Form Differ From a Photo Consent Form for Patients?
Still Have Questions?
There are plenty of things that your practice needs to understand in order to stay HIPAA compliant, from the encryption of your email service to the way in which you respond to patient reviews. We can’t help you with everything. But we can help you with photo release forms.
We’ve constructed our HIPAA-compliant tools and our free photo release form for social media with the consultation of excellent lawyers to help you move forward with confidence in your dental digital marketing.
Contact us to learn more.
About the Author: Adrian Lefler is a dental marketing expert and a key member of the dental marketing team at My Social Practice. My Social Practice is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Adrian is passionate about helping dental practices grow through transparent and effective dental marketing services. If you have any dental marketing questions, give us a call at 877-316-7516. And, don’t forget to read our Google My Business reviews.