Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region’s Public Relations Department is available to assist local, regional, national and international news media answering questions about our facilities, locating an expertise for a comment on a news story or obtaining more information about a news release or media event. Since Sutter Roseville Medical Center is the regional trauma center for seven Northern California counties, we are available to provide patient condition reports on breaking news stories 24 hours a day.
Guidelines to Release of Patient Information
The California Healthcare Association’s Guide to Release of Patient Information is a valuable tool to help media understand the legal and ethical considerations hospitals take when providing information to the media. More details are available online at www.calhealth.org. We are committed to working with the media and our patients to ensure honest, accurate and timely information, respecting the individual’s right to privacy.
Definition of Patient Conditions
There are some basic terms that we may use to describe a patient’s conditions when a patient authorizes such a disclosure. Below are the terms and their definitions.
- Undetermined: Patient is being evaluated, test results are pending. Unable to determine status.
- Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable.
- Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable.
- Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill.
- Critical: Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious.
Frequently Asked Questions: What Every Reporter Should Know
Q. Is patient information considered public information?
A. No, it is not. Federal and state privacy laws strictly regulate the release of patient information and every patient has a right to refuse any information be released at any time. This is true for public figures as well as major public news stories (i.e., disaster). And it is left to each hospital’s policy to determine if they will routinely release legally allowable information to the press and the public. Our policy is to release the condition of a patient if (1) you inquire using the name of the patient and (2) the patient does not object to the release of this information. In order for us to release any additional information such as the type of injury, we must have specific written authorization from the patient. Of course, this means the patient must be conscious and agreeable for that to happen. It also takes considerable time to ensure we receive proper authorization and media works under time deadlines that may not be compatible.
Q. Why do you release information on some patients but not on all patients?
A. Any patient admitted to a hospital can request that the hospital release no information on his or her status, including whether or not that patient is even admitted to the hospital. If a patient or his/her representative requests this status, we are obligated by state and federal laws not to release any information, including whether or not the patient is at the hospital, even though you already know he or she is here. (Note: this automatically applies to psychiatric, drug or alcohol abuse patients and AIDS patients).
Q. Why are some trauma patients designated “no information,” even when the police agency releases information?
A. A patient (or representative, usually a family member), a police agency or the hospital nursing supervisor can place a patient on “No Information” status if they believe that, by releasing information the patient and/or hospital staff may be in danger. We first and foremost are committed to the patient’s needs and safety. Once a patient is on “No Information” status, we are bound by state and federal law not to release any information. If a patient does authorize the release of information and specific permission is obtained, we can then release general information as permitted.
More information about privacy laws and information may be obtained from the California Hospital Association’s Guide to Release of Patient Information.
How to Contact Us
To obtain information on a news story or to request an interview with a Sutter administrator, physician, staff member or patient, the media should call the Sutter pager at:
- For Sacramento and Yolo counties: (916) 590-1399
- For Placer County: (916) 353-7476