MedStar Health Media Policies and Procedures

Patient Information Requests

It is the policy of MedStar Health to communicate newsworthy events to external audiences, via the appropriate department of media relations/public relations, while protecting the right of patients to privacy. This policy applies to all patients, both inpatients and outpatients, regardless of whether the case is a matter of public record (see below).

HIPAA Regulation

MedStar Health follows the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which strictly limits the information from a patient's medical record that may be released without the patient's expressed consent. The law is aimed at ensuring confidentiality of medical record information and restricting authorized disclosure to all but those who need it for purposes of patient care or to comply with the law.

News media must provide the patient's first and last name when asking for information. MedStar Health may not disclose the nature of extent of a patient's illness without the patient's permission. If a patient objects to the disclosure of information, hospitals may not release any information about that patient. Hospital representatives will not be able to confirm or deny a patient's presence in the hospital, outpatient center or any MedStar Health facility.

Other circumstances under which no patient information can be provided include:

  • Situations involving domestic violence, rape, abuse, chemical dependency or suicide
  • Patient endangerment, as determined by law enforcement officials
  • Underage patients for whom there is not written consent from a parent or legal guardian
  • Discharge patients from whom there is no written consent

Patient Condition Reports

Following guidelines, the hospital can provide a general one-word condition of the patient, to be determined by the charge nurse or physician. These conditions, based on guidelines from the American Hospital Association, are:

  • 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, patient may or may not be conscious, indicators are questionable.
  • CRITICAL: Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits, patient may not be conscious, indicators are unfavorable.
  • DECEASED: May only be released after next of kin or personal representative has been notified, no additional information about the cause or time of death may be released.

Note: STABLE is not a condition

Interview, Photography, and Live Shot Requests

News media must receive prior permission to interview or photograph a patient, physician or MedStar associate at MedStar Health facilities. News media will be accompanied at all times by a MedStar media relations/PR staff member while on MedStar property.

MedStar will obtain written consent from the interviewee.

News media should contact the media relations/PR department at each facility (see Contacts listing) to determine an appropriate location before dispatching a satellite truck for a live shot, camera crews, reporters, photographers, etc.