UH Media Relations Guidelines
The Media Relations team at University Hospitals (UH) welcomes the opportunity to work with reporters on medical news stories, including news related to patients admitted to a UH hospital. Like all health systems, UH is responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates regulations that govern privacy standards for healthcare information. To effectively facilitate the requests of media reporting on news and events at a UH facility, the UH Media Relations team has established the following guidelines.
For reporters requesting information or interviews:
- All interview and photo shoot requests with UH leaders, physicians, staff or patients must be made in advance through the UH Media Relations team.
- To ensure confidentiality, privacy, and appropriate sensitivity to patients and families, in-person interviews must be conducted in the presence of a UH Media Relations team member (or other designated UH employee) while on any UH campus or facility (and with appropriate prior written authorization when media are talking with our patients).
- Reporters, photographers, multimedia journalists, or film crews visiting any UH facility must be accompanied by a UH Media Relations team member (or other designated UH employee). Media will be met by UH Media Relations (or other designated UH employee) in the lobby of the pre-determined campus building and escorted to the appropriate location in the hospital.
- At employed physician offices, media may conduct interviews with physicians unaccompanied by a UH media representative only after prior approval from the media relations office and an establishment of ground rules (i.e., no recording of patients, even if patient’s face is obscured or not in the frame).
- For phone interviews, it is up to the discretion of UH Media Relations to remain on the line for the duration of the interview.
- Unless otherwise instructed by a member of the UH Media Relations team, members of the media will be provided complimentary parking. UH security will remove unauthorized media and/or vehicles from the facility as necessary.
- Patients who agree to be interviewed or filmed at UH must provide prior written authorization, or in the case of a minor, their parent or legal guardian, via completed HIPAA media release form to UH Media Relations.
- Without completed HIPAA media release, no patient information other than a one-word condition description is made available. No information will be released on patients who are not identified by full name. University Hospitals uses the following American Medical Association-approved terms:
- 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.
No information - When no information is available through the patient directory, the response, "no information," is issued.
Information about a patient who has died is still protected information under HIPAA. Information regarding the cause of death must come from the patient's physician, and its release must be approved by a legal representative of the deceased. The condition of death, however, may be released for expired patients who have not opted out the directory.
When a death is investigated by the county coroner, questions about the cause of death should be directed to that public office. The coroner's office may also have information about which funeral home is handling arrangements for the deceased.
The victims of an assault or other crimes who 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. The UH Media Relations team cannot provide any information pertaining to patient condition, or even confirm the patient is in the hospital. Other patients, celebrities for instance, may opt not to be listed in the patient directory.
Law prohibits UH 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.
Access to UH is based on the understanding members of the news media will adhere to all UH policies and laws related to patient privacy, including obtaining patient authorization prior to disclosure of patient information, including filming of any patients. A patient being interviewed has the right, under terms of federal patient privacy regulations, to withdraw authorization for press use of his or her identity and protected health information if action was not yet taken with the information. A patient also may also terminate an interview at any time. In such cases, the news media must immediately end the interview and stop any related recording or filming of the interview subject. If such a patient also withdraws authorization at that time, news media once again may not release protected health information or in any way identify the patient.
Please also note that under federal policies and laws, "protected health information" includes direct or "overheard" conversations between and among caregivers, patients and family members, as well as information contained in medical records. Therefore, while UH provides reasonable press access to its facilities, if members of the press should overhear or see "protected health information" that is not covered by an authorization they must not film, use, or disclose that information without obtaining a specific authorization for that information. This includes taking footage of a patient hallway that may include inadvertent disclosure of “protected health information” (e.g., patient walking in the hallway; a conversation between providers; a patient status board visible in a hallway, patient room, or at a nurse’s station; etc.). To keep inadvertent disclosures to a minimum, restrictions in some areas may be imposed and escorts for all news media film crews and still photography are required.