All requests by an external media organization must be coordinated and supervised by the Public Relations/Communications staff. While on hospital premises, all members of the media must also be accompanied by a member of the staff.
No patients or visitors at Cooper University Health Care may be photographed or videotaped without their prior consent and/or the consent of a legal guardian in the case of minor children or incapacitated adults. The Public Relations/Communications staff will have all patients, family members, or visitors sign an “Authorization for Use and Disclosure of PHI for a Communications or Media Relations Activity” prior to any interviews and/or photography.
Release of Patient Information
Under HIPAA, matters of public record (those situations that are by law reportable to public authorities such as the police, coroner or public health officials) are no different than other cases. Victims of accidents, explosions, falls, shootings, stabbings, injury from fire, natural disasters or terrorism have the same privacy rights as all other patients.
As with any patient, when a public figure is hospitalized and the media inquiry contains the patient’s name, confirmation and the one-word condition may be given unless the patient requests that no information be released.
In high-profile cases, especially those resulting in multiple injuries or mass casualties, only information as to number of injured and general conditions will be released without names.
Unless the patient has expressed otherwise and opted out of releasing any information, only the following one-word conditions about the patient’s condition will be released:
- UNDER EVALUATION - Patient undergoing 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 questionable.
- CRITICAL - Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators unfavorable.
- TREATED AND RELEASED - Received treatment but not admitted.
- TREATED AND TRANSFERRED - Received treatment. Transferred to a different facility.
If the patient has expired, this fact can be reported to the media only after the patient has been pronounced dead and family has been notified. However, death is a condition subject to HIPAA restrictions, so if the patient initially opted out of providing information altogether, a hospital cannot say the patient has died.
No information regarding treatment for psychiatric conditions, substance abuse, the AIDS virus or any other sensitive conditions or circumstances will be released. Special discretion will be used when releasing information regarding minors, victims of sexual assault and attempted suicides.