The privacy and safety of our patients, their family members and caregivers is extremely important to everyone at MU Health Care. We work hard to ensure our patients, their family members and friends feel safe and secure.
One of the ways we guard the privacy of our patients’ protected health information (PHI) is by adhering to the strict guidelines outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act at all times. HIPAA limits the amount of patient information we can release without written consent from a patient or, when applicable, their next of kin. See HIPAA guidelines for media from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
HIPAA allows members of MU Health Care’s public relations team to give a one-word condition report about a patient without written consent, as long as the member of the media is able to provide the correct spelling of the patient’s first and last name.
If the patient opts out of allowing that information to be available, we will not release the one-word condition report.
Any request for a condition report must be submitted to a member of our public relations team.
How to request a condition report
Weekdays 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. call 573-882-8046
All other times, including nights and weekends, call 573-876-0708
You will need to provide the patient’s name with the correct spelling. You also must identify yourself and the news outlet you represent.
Conditions and what they mean
When providing a patient’s condition, we use the following descriptors as outlined by HIPAA:
- Treated and Released. Patient received treatment but was not admitted.
- Good. The patient’s vital signs are stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
- Fair. The patient’s vital signs are stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
- Serious. The patient’s vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. The patient is acutely ill and/or seriously injured. Indicators are questionable.
- Critical. The patient’s vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. The patient may be intubated and/or unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
- Deceased. Patient has died. MU Health Care’s PR team will only confirm death after ensuring the patient’s next of kin are aware and the death occurred at MU Health Care.
- We do not have any information on a patient with that name. This could mean several things including the name is misspelled, we never treated a patient with that name, or that the patient or next of kin has opted out of MU Health Care’s public directory, choosing to keep his or her health information private.
What we need
In order for us to provide a patient’s condition to a member of the media, we first confirm that everyone is talking about the same patient. Members of the media are required to contact a member of the public relations team, and the requestor must provide the first and last name of the patient with the correct spelling.
We cannot provide information based on:
- Accident location (if relevant)
- Time of incident or reported arrival to the hospital
- Type of injury or illness
- Gender and approximate age
Any other information, including a patient’s injuries, illness or prognosis, types of surgical intervention or other treatments or about where a patient is located in the hospital is not available unless the patient signs MU Health Care’s patient consent form. This form is for patients to sign if they wish to specifically give consent for their health information to be used in a media story. We use this form for patients when we produce the story and when a patient has agreed to speak with a reporter about his or her health information.
Requesting comment from family or friends of a patient
- Any request for access to persons on MU Health Care property for media purposes must be submitted to our Public Relations department.
- We will not commonly approach a patient’s relatives or friends for media interviews.
- News or media representatives are not permitted to enter the hospital to find and approach family or friends of patients.
- If a patient has granted the media access for an interview, the reporter will be escorted by one of our PR representatives at all times. The PR representative will need obtain a signed patient release form prior to escorting the reporter.
Media in Patient Care Areas
Members of the media are generally not allowed in patient-care areas. This is because HIPAA expressly states that it is not sufficient for a health care provider to attempt to mask all other PHI of all other patients in the care area.
Additionally, it is not sufficient to ask or require media personnel to mask the identities of other patients in a particular care area using techniques such as blurring, pixilation, voice alteration software or “shooting to avoid” other PHI for whom an authorization was not obtained. This is because the HIPAA privacy rule does not allow media access to the patients’ PHI, without written consent, in the first place.