In medicine, when it comes to bureaucracy gone berserk, things aren’t like they used to be. Cute collages of baby pictures on your doctors wall used to be the rage in pediatrician’s offices. Now, thanks to bureaucrats, they will be seen less and less and, in their place, faceless images of landscapes or make-believe snapshots of professional baby models.
The reason that those cute baby shots are going into the closet is a byproduct of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. The 15 million page law, passed to protect patient privacy, says that putting a picture of a patient’s child — even with the parent’s permission — is a violation of patient privacy and is against the law.
Violations of HIPAA can carry a maximum fine of $100,000, along with other penalties. While the evening news hasn’t exactly been plastered yet with images of doctors being led away in handcuffs because of a smiling baby on the wall, more and more obstetricians pediatricians are taking action to make sure they avoid trouble.
Some of the steps the doctors are taking include:
1. Putting all patient’s baby pictures out of public view.
2. Having parents sign a long, complex form allowing their baby’s images to be displayed.
3. Letting new patients know that parents must give the office permission to share their baby’s images with others.
4. And, just not displaying kiddie images at all.
Bonanza for Stock Baby Photos
The HIPAA laws have had the unintended consequence of creating a bonanza for modeling agencies that work with babies and toddlers. Increasingly, modeling agencies are advertising through mainstream media such as NY Times, Washington Post and other media outlets for cute, adorable babies. Seeing the opportunity for a few dollars and the remote possibility of stardom for the little one, parents have been flocking to the agencies in almost unprecedented numbers.
One medical practice consultant in Washington DC, who follows the non-medical impact HIPAA laws, said the uptick in the number of parents going to agencies to have their children photographed has risen 50 percent. Most of the increase has been due to the desire for physicians to still put baby’s pictures on their walls and stock photography is the only safe way to skirt the privacy laws.
Agencies such as Bonnie and Betty, Bubblegum Casting and ShowBiz Limited, play to the parents’ egos by implying that their little one may be the next Gerber baby. With ads that scream “babies are earning millions acting and modeling…” many parents see dollar signs and work in Hollywood in their future.
Industry observers point out that the odds of a new, undiscovered talent is likely to happen any day. But the odds are against any specific child being the next Gerber Baby.
One piece of advice for parents who are seeking to bankroll their kiddies’ college fund or looking forward to walking the red carpet at a Hollywood Premier; finance college the old fashioned way and be content with watching your little one in the school play.
It’s a lot less stressful.