Akron Children’s Public Relations department handles all media calls. In addition to being our policy, it’s in the media’s best interest to channel inquiries through the PR office. Our media relations professionals are familiar with the media’s special needs and deadlines, and we work quickly to arrange interviews and gather background information and details. Calls made to others in the organization will be routed to our PR department.
Our first responsibility is to the patient’s health and welfare. We have legal and ethical responsibilities to preserve patient confidentiality. The patient has specific legal rights to privacy as governed by several federal and state laws, as well as standards set forth by the Joint Commission.
For example, the patient’s medical records are by law private and confidential. The medical records can only be released with the permission and written authorization of the patient (if 18 years or older), patient’s parents/legal guardian or as required by the court process.
The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) enforces even more privacy measures. HIPAA privacy regulations restrict the information healthcare providers may include in a patient directory and release to the public, including news media. Directory information, as it pertains to news media, is limited to 3 elements and patients have the option of further restricting release of the directory information. These are:
Note: Unless the patient has exercised the “opt-out” provision, directory information about a particular patient can be shared with any person who asks for the patient by name.
While the HIPAA privacy regulations restrict the information healthcare providers may release, patients (18 or older) or parents/legal guardians of patients (17 and under) are free to release their own personal information or to consent to interviews providing it doesn’t interfere with their medical treatment.
A PR representative is always available. If you need to contact a media relations professional after normal business hours, call 330-543-1000 and ask the operator to page the on-call PR staff person. Or, you may ask for the night/weekend nurse manager, who will be able to give you the one-word condition of a patient after you ask for the patient by name.
Media representatives and photographers must contact the PR department before visiting patients or staff for photos or interviews. We require a designated hospital representative accompany news personnel at all times. The PR staff will manage the written or verbal permission of the patient, or in the case of a minor, the parent or legal guardian, for photos and interviews.
We may deny media access to the patient if it is determined the presence of photographers or reporters would aggravate the patient’s condition or interfere with appropriate clinical care.
Matters of public record refer to those situations that are by law reportable to public authorities, such as the police, coroner or public health officer. While laws and/or regulations require healthcare facilities to report a variety of information to public authorities, it is not the responsibility of facilities to provide that information in response to calls or other inquiries from the media or other parties, including law enforcement officials. Instead, such calls should be directed to the appropriate public authority.
The following information may be offered regarding specific illnesses or injuries if it exists in the public record or if the patient’s consent has been secured:
Burns: A hospital may release severity and location of burns.
Child Abuse: No comment is made regarding the possibility of child abuse.
Drugs and Poisoning: A statement may be made regarding the patient’s condition, but no statement will be given concerning the motivation or circumstances.
Fractures: Only the member (body part) involved is described. No other details are given.
Head Injuries: A simple statement may be made if the head was injured. “Fracture” is not used in cases of head injury unless stated by a physician.
Intoxications: A condition report may be given but the hospital cannot reveal that a patient was intoxicated.
Sexual Abuse: No statement is made regarding the nature of the incident. Only condition is reported. The patient’s name may not be released.
Shootings and Stabbings: Some hospitals may verify the number of wounds and their locations.
Suicide: No comment is made on the possibility of suicide.
Hospitals cannot release information — including condition reports — for special cases such as: patients admitted for chemical dependency, attempted suicide, child abuse, psychiatric treatment or a domestic case. Information regarding a suspected suicide must be obtained from the coroner or medical examiner’s office.
Our spokespersons are also unable to release information in situations involved in litigation.
During a local disaster or emergency, communication regarding victims is coordinated by the Public Relations department. Call 330-543-8760 (Akron) or 330-746-8707 (Mahoning Valley).
Source: Ohio Hospital Association
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