Media Calls About Patients

The Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) contains provisions that govern what information hospitals can release about patients.

In general SVMC will be as helpful as it can within the boundaries of this law. Here are the guidelines for media personnel who wish to obtain a condition statement about a patient.

Background
According to HIPAA, SVMC must give all patients the opportunity to withhold directory information. They can choose to be "confidential patients," meaning that their presence will not be able to be confirmed to anyone outside the institution. These patients will not be listed in the facility directory.

This opportunity is given to patients when they are registered. When patients cannot speak for themselves, we treat them as confidential patients, unless their physician or the administrator-on-call has a compelling reason to release information.

Media Requests
All media requests must go to Community Relations. To request a patient's condition, media personnel must have the patients name. We cannot search our facility directory without a patient name.

During business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mon-Fri), media requests for patient information must come through the community relations staff:

  • Kevin Robinson, Communications Director 447-5003
  • Eileen Druckenmiller, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist 447-5558
  • Erica Cummings, Marketing and Public Relations Assistant, 447-5019

After business hours, media requests for patient information should go through the Administrator-On-Call (AOC). The AOC rotates through SVMC management and can be reached by phoning 442-6361 and asking the operator to page the Administrator-On-Call. Please be patient it often takes the AOC 20 minutes or so to return calls.

Patient Information
If patients choose not to withhold information, SVMC can release the following information when the request is made for it by the patient's name.

  • confirmation that the patient is in SVMC
  • general location in SVMC, not the specific room number
  • basic condition statement. The definitions of these follow below.
    • Undetermined: patient is awaiting a physician and an 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 unstable.
    • Treated and Released: patient was treated and released
    • Treated and Transferred: patient was treated and transferred, we cannot provide the location to which they were transferred. SVMC regularly transfers patients to Albany Medical Center and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Occasionally we will transfer a patient to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass. (Please remember that if a patient can't speak for themselves, most likely we cannot release information about them)

Other information

Death: a person's death is a matter of public record. In order to obtain the most accurate information, SVMC will refer inquiries regarding the death of a person to the town clerk of the town of death.

Minors: If the patient is a minor, written permission from a parent or legal guardian must be obtained before SVMC will release any information whatsoever.

In general any activities beyond those outlined above require express written permission from the patient, or the patient's legal representative including 

  • Detailed condition statement beyond the one-word condition 
  • Photographs of the patient
  • Media interview

Disaster Situations: In some situations, such as disasters, the public may benefit from the release of general information. In these situations, SVMC will have activated the Incident Command System. SVMC will have a designated public information officer who can release general information about the patients being treated (number of patients by gender or age group but without names e.g. "as the result of the chemical spill, SVMC is treating 5 adult patients. All are in good condition.")