Guidelines for Journalists
At Hopkins Children’s, our first priority is to protect the health and welfare of our patients. That includes our ethical and legal responsibility to maintain confidentiality. Therefore, Hopkins Children’s will release medical information and confirm treatment of patients only as allowed by the privacy rules of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
HIPAA regulations require that the hospital release patient information only when the media request includes the patient’s name. That information will be limited to a one-word condition.
Acceptable One-Word Conditions
- 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.
Please note that Stable is not a condition. It is usually used when a patient is still being evaluated and indicates that the condition is steady and holding at current levels. The term should not be used.
If the patient has been released, we may disclose either of the following:
- Treated and released, or
- Treated and transferred to another health care facility
Restrictions on Release Information
If a journalist requests the condition of a patient by name, the media relations staff may provide a one-word condition update without the patient’s authorization, except in the following circumstances:
- The patient has opted out of the hospital directory
- The patient’s treatment relates to drug or alcohol treatment
- The patient’s treatment relates to HIV/AIDS
- The patient’s treatment relates to a mental health diagnosis
- The patient’s treatment relates to sexual abuse
- The police or doctor request that no information be released
Contacting Patients Directly
It is against hospital policy for anyone from the media to directly approach a patient or patient’s family inside the hospital without prior authorization of the media relations office.
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