The first responsibility of a healthcare institution is to protect the health, legal rights and general welfare of its patients. Patients have specific legal rights to privacy concerning medical information. Barnes-Jewish Media Relations staff members frequently are required to balance the public's interest with this right to privacy, in accordance to HIPAA privacy regulations.
To comply with HIPAA regulations, no information can be released to the media, unless the patient has agreed to be in the hospital directory. The media relations staff person may confirm with the caregiver that the patient has consented to be in the directory.
A representative from Barnes-Jewish Media Relations will consult with nursing and medical staffs to learn the patient's current medical condition. Media relations staff are knowledgeable about all HIPAA regulations concerning media, and will only release the appropriate information.
For the one-word condition, use the terms "undetermined," "good," "fair," "serious" or "critical." Definitions of patient conditions are listed below:
- 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.
Clinicians find the "critical but stable" term useful when discussing cases amongst themselves because it helps them differentiate patients who are expected to recover from those whose prognosis is worse. But a critical condition means that at least some vital signs are unstable, so this is inherently contradictory. The term "stable" should not be used as a condition. Furthermore, this term should not be used in combination with other conditions, which by definition, often indicate a patient is unstable.
The victims of an assault or other crimes are listed under "protective status" conditions will not be included in the hospital’s patient directory, for the protection of the patient and others in the hospital. Media Relations cannot provide any information pertaining to the patient's condition, or even confirm they are in the hospital. Other patients, celebrities for instance, may opt not to be listed in the patient directory.
Law prohibits Media Relations from releasing any information to the news media about psychiatric or substance abuse patients. Also, no statement may be made pertaining to whether a patient has a sexually transmitted or communicable disease, or is a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
Barnes-Jewish Hospital requires all patients to sign a consent form before agreeing to being photographed, videotaped or interviewed by the news media or by an in-house photographer if the photograph is to be shown to the general public. The Media Relations representative will secure the signed release before any photography or videotaping begins. This consent form has three copies; one for the patient, one for media relations’ files and one for the patient’s medical record.
To protect patient privacy, there is a Barnes-Jewish Hospital policy that any working news reporter or photographer must be accompanied by a Media Relations representative when they are in the hospital.
To reach a member of the media relations staff, please call 314-286-0300. After normal business hours, please call 314-747-3000 and ask for the media relations representative on-call.