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Patient Privacy/HIPAA

Medical information regarding any patient will be released to the news media in accordance with HIPAA, which requires healthcare institutions to safeguard the privacy and integrity of patients and their personal health information.

St. John Providence Health System works with media members to provide accurate and timely information, while respecting the confidentiality of our patients’ medical information and complying with HIPAA’s privacy regulations. SJPHS may refrain from releasing information about a patient involving cases of a sensitive nature or to ensure security.

All media inquiries for information about patients must be made through a representative of Public Relations. The following standards have been established for news media inquiries about the status of patients:

  1. All media inquiries must include the specific patient’s name and exact spelling.
  2. As long as the patient has not requested that information be withheld, we may release a one-word condition (see below) about the patient.
  3. Release of any medical information beyond the condition requires written authorization by the patient or patient's legal representative. Note: Public agencies (law enforcement, fire/rescue, etc), are not bound by the same standards.
  4. Videotaped or tape-recorded interviews, photographs or any other interaction with a patient requires written patient authorization.
  5. The patient has the option to expressly state that he or she does not want information released, including confirmation of his or her presence in the facility.
  6. Public Record Cases: Patients involved in matters of public record have the same privacy rights as all other patients. For instance, the fact that a patient has been transported to the hospital from an accident, crime scene or fire has no bearing on the patient's privacy. The name verification and one-word condition rule still applies. In such cases, media inquiries would be referred to the appropriate public agency, including the medical examiner, law enforcement agency, fire/rescue transport agency or health department that receives such reports.

Below are the conditions approved by the American Hospital Association for release about a patient:

  • Undetermined - Patient awaiting physician assessment.
  • Good – Excellent or good prognosis. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable.
  • Fair – Favorable prognosis. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable. Patient is experiencing minor complications.
  • Serious – Acutely ill with questionable prognosis. Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. There is a chance for improved prognosis.
  • Critical – Questionable prognosis. Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Major complications are involved.

The term “stable” will not be used as a condition.

Death of a patient – A patient’s death cannot be reported or confirmed until efforts have been made by the attending physician to notify the patient’s next-of-kin. At that time, and unless the deceased’s legal representative requests that the information be withheld, Public Relations staff may report only that the patient is deceased. No other information may be provided such as the time or cause of death without individual authorization from a personal representative of the deceased.

According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals cannot share information with the media on the specifics about the circumstances of a death without permission of the deceased’s next-of-kin or other legal representative.


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