Public Relations and Marketing
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Contacting Public Relations
Public Relations can be reached during normal business hours by dialing 970-298-1975. Or you may page at any time by dialing 298-2273, then ask for the PR person on call.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandated regulations that govern privacy, security and administrative simplification standards for healthcare information. Hospital compliance with the final Privacy Rule was required in 2004. HIPAA established major changes in how healthcare organizations manage health information, including patient records.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets forth minimum standards, mandated by federal law, which hospitals must follow with regard to the release of patient information. State law and individual hospital policies may be even more restrictive than what is required by HIPAA.
Among other things, HIPAA privacy regulations restrict the information that healthcare providers may include in a facility directory and release to the public, including news media. The directory elements are:
Please Note: The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires that all patients be given the opportunity to opt out of the patient directory. If a patient chooses to opt out, no information can be released about that patient.
No Public Record Cases
No matter how a person arrives at the hospital, the conditions surrounding his/her illness or injuries, or how important or well known he or she may be, HIPAA requires the hospital to ensure privacy. Unless authorized in writing by the patient or a patient's representative, the hospital is limited to providing only the facility directory information, as previously stated.
Hospitals have a designated person on duty to handle news media inquiries at all times, either at the hospital or on-call. The spokesperson has the authority to release information to representatives of the news media, as outlined in this document.
Gaining Access to Hospitals & Patients
Media representatives and photographers MUST contact the hospital spokesperson for access to the hospital or to patients within the hospital.
All hospitals have policies that require that a hospital representative accompany news personnel at all times within the facility.
All interviews with patients in the hospital, in person or by telephone, must be coordinated through the hospital public relations department. Written authorization from the patient is needed to obtain medical information beyond directory information, including photographs or interviews. If the patient is a minor, written authorization must be obtained from a parent or legal guardian.
Please note: Hospitals may deny the media access to a patient if it is determined that the presence of photographers or reporters would aggravate the patient's condition or interfere with appropriate clinical care.
It is the responsibility of news personnel to determine what constitutes news. However, it is the moral and legal responsibility of hospitals to ensure proper and safe care of all patients, to protect the patient's right to privacy and the confidential nature of hospital medical records, and to abide by federal and state privacy laws, including HIPAA.
Within the limits of their mutual capabilities and responsibilities, hospitals and news media organizations have a joint interest in working together to see that news is reported accurately and promptly.
Release of Patient Information
A hospital's first responsibility is to the health and welfare of the patient. The patient's medical information by law is private and confidential. Except in the case of treatment, payment and healthcare operations, personal health information (PHI) is subject to release only with the permission and written authorization of the patient or patient's legal representative or as required by law.
Unless the patient opts out, directory information will be released to the media, providing the request includes the patient's full name. Directory information may be delayed or unavailable for a patient who is unconscious or in an emergency situation.
The hospital spokesperson may not speculate on how, why or what caused the patient's injury or illness, but may offer a one-word patient condition while the individual is a patient in the facility. The following definitions come from American Hospital Association guidelines. Individual hospitals may assess patient condition differently. The patient is still awaiting assessment by a physician and his or her condition is not yet available.
- Undetermined: The patient is still awaiting assessment by a physician and his or her condition is not yet available.Patient is conscious and comfortable.
- Good: Patient is conscious and comfortable. Patient is conscious with minor complications.
- Fair: Patient is conscious with minor complications.
- Serious: Patient is acutely ill.
- Critical: Patient is acutely ill with major complications.
- Dead: Confirmation will be withheld until the next of kin has been notified. A hospital may not disclose information regarding the date, time or cause of death. Information regarding cause of death comes from the coroner in most cases.Confirmation will be withheld until the next of kin has been notified. A hospital may not disclose information regarding the date, time or cause of death. Information regarding cause of death comes from the coroner in most cases.
The hospital spokesperson may indicate that a patient has been treated and released or treated and transferred.
For more HIPAA information, visit the United States Department of Health and Human Services HIPAA web site: www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa