Corporate Compliance

Q&A: Releasing patient information to the media

Compliance Monitor, April 14, 2010

Q: Can hospitals notify the media about a patient’s condition without patient authorization?

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.

Although a hospital cannot release patient information to the media, one exception exists. The media may request patient information included in a facility directory. Available information includes 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 without such a request.

Patients have the right to exclude their name and information from the facility directory.

Chris Apgar, CISSP answered this question in the April 2010 issue of the HCPro newsletter Briefings on HIPAA. For more information about this newsletter visit the HCMarketplace.

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