Media visitation guidelines
Learn more about our guidelines and policies regarding the release of patient information to the media.
HCA Houston Healthcare hospitals are staffed with professionals dedicated to working with journalists to ensure news is reported in an accurate and timely manner.
Our hospitals are responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) mandates regulations that govern privacy standards for healthcare information.
Upon admission, HCA Houston Healthcare hospitals provide all patients an option regarding inclusion in the patient directory as required by federal law. Patients are asked in the admission/registration process if they would like to opt out of the facility patient directory.
If a patient chooses to opt out of the directory, no patient condition can be provided. If a patient chooses not to opt out of the directory, only a one-word condition will be provided when the condition of an individual is requested, provided the correct first and last name of the patient is provided by the media outlet.
Patients must give written permission to be interviewed, photographed or for issuing written statements about his/her condition.
Our first priority is always the safety and privacy of our patients and their families. With that in mind, we strictly enforce HIPAA laws that limit the amount of patient information we may release without written consent from a patient or patient representative. In the case of patients under age 18, a parent or guardian must be asked if they object to the release of information about the patient.
We cannot elaborate on a patient’s injuries, illness or prognosis without specific written consent by the patient or the patient’s family.
When asking for a patient’s condition update, journalists must first provide the media representative with the patient’s full name.
We use standard language acceptable under HIPAA laws and American Hospital Association guidelines to describe patient conditions. They 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. Indicators are questionable.
- Critical — Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
- Treated and released — This could mean that the patient was sent home or to another facility.
- Treated and transferred — Patient received treatment and was transferred to a different facility. Although a hospital may disclose that a patient was treated and released, it may not release information regarding the date of release or where the patient was transferred without patient authorization.
- Confirming patient deaths — We will confirm a patient’s death only after signed consent from next of kin.
Patients must sign a consent form before being photographed, videotaped or interviewed by the news media. A media relations representative will secure the signed release before any photography, videotaping or interviewing begins.
Reporters and photographers must contact a member of a hospital’s media relations staff to enter the facility for any news gathering purposes. Due to patient health and safety concerns, not all requests can be accommodated. While in the hospital, news reporters, photographers and any support personnel must be accompanied by a member of the hospital’s media relations team.