New Federal Regulations for the Release of Patient Information to the Media
Media inquiries must include the patient’s first and last name. The hospital will not release any information to the media unless the reporter’s request specifically includes the patient’s first and last name.
Without prior approval of the patient, the only information we will release is a one-word condition, defined as follows:
Undetermined. Patient awaiting physician and assessment.
Good. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
Fair. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
Serious. Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
Critical. Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
The hospital will not use the common description “critical but stable” because critical patients by definition are not stable. “Stable” will not be used as a condition and should not be used in combination with other conditions.
A patient has the choice to “opt out” of providing any information to the news media—including confirmation of the patient’s presence in the hospital. When the patient is unable to express a preference, the hospital may release information if we deem it in the best interest of the patient (for example, when we have an unidentified, non-communicative patient in the hospital and need to locate his or her family).
Under certain circumstances, hospitals must report patient conditions to public authorities. Under the new regulations we are not required to provide that information to the media or other parties, including law enforcement officials. Instead, we will direct such calls to the appropriate public authority.
HIPAA sets forth the maximum information that can be released about a patient. Each hospital's policies regarding the release of patient information may be more restrictive than the HIPAA regulations.
Hospitals must continue to follow state and federal laws and regulations that address patient privacy. In some cases (family planning, drug and alcohol, and HIV/AIDS, for example) these laws and regulations are more restrictive than HIPAA in regards to the release of patient information.
The same standards for release of information apply to any celebrity or VIP patients.
In disaster situations or public emergencies, the hospital may share information with other hospitals, law enforcement, relief agencies, or the media if, in our best judgment, it will help reduce public anxiety or assist in connecting patients with their families.
For more information, call 1.866.CALL.MLH.