Facility's homegrown HIPAA video entertains and educates staff

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Mandatory HIPAA training is usually met by staff members with the same excitement as a trip to the dentist. Sure, they have to do it, but they don’t have to like it.

Diane Adams, director of training and education at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, wasn’t satisfied with that response to training she knew was vitally important to everyone’s jobs.

Her team of trainers and administration staff members thought getting behind—and in front of—the camera to infuse humor into an otherwise dry training video would net positive results.

But Adams could not have imagined how popular the video would become. Since 2006, excitement and laughs over the video have created such a buzz that the demand for more specific training videos still stream in today, transforming her department into a pseudo–Universal Studios. “Videos are really the hot new thing, but they are not an easy thing to produce,” Adams says. “There’s a thin line between funny and eye rolling, so it takes a lot of time to get it right.”

But the department’s first video, HIPAA @ Sinai, is an example of how effective a humorous, for-staff, by-staff video can be when the pieces fall into place.

Filming to meet staff members’ needs

Adams has worked for Mount Sinai for 17 years; the past four as the director of training and education.

When she joined the team, the department used a combined approach to HIPAA training, featuring one-on-one sessions, PowerPoint training, and a HIPAA video produced by an outside vendor.

Although the video was straightforward and informative, it didn’t excite its audience.

But that alone wasn’t enough justification to produce a new video. Regulatory changes, such as the release of the final security rule, eventually rendered the old video obsolete.

The training department decided that a similar video produced outside the facility would miss an opportunity to make the training fun, memorable, and therefore effective.

Working behind the scenes

Because Adams and her staff members didn’t have a Titanic-like budget to produce a video, they cut corners by maximizing the talents of their department and other hospital staff members.

The department already had a handheld camera. They recruited actors from the hospital staff—nearly 60 people participated in the final product—and worked with staff management to find appropriate times for staff members to participate in the video without disrupting their work flow. That meant spreading the shooting of the video over six months, instead of six weeks.

At the start, staff members met with Aviva Halpert, Mount Sinai’s chief HIPAA officer, to brainstorm video content. After this was incorporated into the script, Adams says Halpert reviewed it and discussed what was wrong and what was accurate with staff members.

The creative brain behind the video was one of Adams’ trainers, Steve Fecteau, who narrated and acted in the video.

The team shot the video at the hospital, using a closed area that was under construction for much of the filming.

Portraying information creatively

The video begins with Fecteau sitting at a computer, introducing himself and the purpose of the training. Moments later, he bounces up from his chair to talk to actual hospital staff members about HIPAA challenges they face, but not before he reminds viewers that he almost forgot to lock his computer.

He briefly discusses HIPAA’s computer security requirement, but before the talk gets too technical—and boring for the viewer—he is running into the next scene. That’s one reason the video works well; it covers important information while keeping it fast, fresh, and funny.

“The humor is what makes the video so unique,” says Adams. “Sometimes, the audience can’t hear the second line because they are still laughing at the first one.”

The video also has brief cameos from staff members discussing how they come in contact with HIPAA in their jobs. The viewers hear from a nurse, building services member, security officer, catering worker, quality insurance nurse, and patient finance worker.

Another scene shows a staff member receiving pressure to divulge protected health information from a patient’s husband, sister, and former physician. It’s funny, but also paints a real picture of how to react to such a common occurrence.

Screening for staff members

Since the video premiered in 2006, Adams’ staff has shown it at least 200 more times to approximately 13,000 people.

But it’s no ordinary training session. Viewers are treated to bags of popcorn, references to a “show” as opposed to a “training program,” and Broadway music prior to the video starting.


Adapted from Briefings on HIPAA, February 2009, HCPro, Inc.