Health Information Management

Q&A: HIPAA and media

HIM-HIPAA Insider, April 6, 2010

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Q. Which HIPAA requirements are applicable with respect to notifying the media about a patient’s condition? Must patients authorize release of information to the media?

A. Hospitals may not give the media information about a patient’s condition without specific authorization from the patient.
 
If the patient is unable to authorize release, a personal representative (e.g., individual with healthcare power of attorney, court-appointed custodian, parent or guardian of a minor, or other individual authorized by state law to represent the patient) may do so. Members of the patient’s family may also share information about the patient’s condition with the media.
 
One exception exists. The media may request patient information that would be included in a facility directory. Available information would include the patient’s:
  • Name
  • Location in the hospital
  • Condition (described in general terms that don’t communicate specific medical information)
The media must request this information; the hospital may not release it absent such a request. 
 
Patients have the right to exclude their name and information from the facility directory. Otherwise, the media may request what amounts to general health information about a patient, and the hospital may provide that information.
 
Editor’s note: Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR, answered this question in the April 2010 issue of Briefings on HIPAA.



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