Munson Healthcare recognizes that news media representatives need an accurate and prompt source of information to fulfill their responsibility to keep the public informed. However, in the release of such information to the media, Munson must consider the health and welfare of the patient, laws and regulations affecting the release of patient information, and the privacy of the physician/patient relationship.
Hospitals and health systems are responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandated regulations that govern privacy standards for health care information. HIPAA regulations specify the purposes for which information may and may not be released without authorization from the patient.
No patient information is given to the media, police, or insurance companies without being requested by complete patient name, including spelling.
When requesting patient conditions, the hospital will provide one-word condition reports as follows:
- Undetermined - Patient is awaiting physician and/or 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.
- Treated and Released* - Received treatment but not admitted.
- Treated and Transferred - Received treatment. Transferred to a different facility.
*Although a hospital may disclose that a patient was treated and released, it may not release information regarding the date of release or where the patient went upon release without patient authorization.
** Only provided once next-of-kin or a legal representative has been notified of the death, and the deceased has been released to the funeral home. The patient must be listed in the patient directory, and not opted out.
Patient Opt Out
Under the HIPAA privacy rule, the patient has the option to expressly state that he or she does not want information released, including information confirming his or her presence in the facility. Patients my choose to opt out at any time during their stay.
Matters of Public Record
Matters of public record refer to situations that are reportable by law to public authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, the coroner or public health officer. Patients who are involved in matters of public record have the same privacy rights as all other patients, as far as the hospital is concerned.