Media Guidelines

The Corporate Communications Department of University Health System handles all media inquiries and can be reached at 210-358-2335.

After hours and on weekends, routine patient condition reports to the news media are handled by the One Call Center at 210-743-3100.

Inquiries considered sensitive or difficult that occur after hours on weekends will be referred to the Corporate Communications staff. The One Call Center maintains a home phone call roster of Corporate Communications staff on-call. They can also be reached by pager at 210-203-3300.

Rules for news coverage

In general, the following rules will apply:

  • On-duty reporters/photographers in University Health System facilities must coordinate their visit in advance with a member of the Corporate Communication staff and be accompanied by an employee at all times. Reporters and photographers not escorted by an employee will be immediately removed from the building.
  • Media will be granted access to public meetings at University Health System facilities. A Corporate Communications staff member may be present at public meetings in which a media representative is present. 
  • Videotaping and interviewing without Corporate Communications involvement is permitted outside of University Health System buildings. But the media will be asked to leave the premises if found to be interfering with patient care or routine healthcare business.
  • News vehicles may not park in fire lanes or block driveways. Special parking may be granted by University Health System security personnel if available near the hospital entrance or at other facilities.
  • Patient consent will be secured prior to any reporting, videotaping or photographing.

Patient Information Requests

No information on a patient's condition may be released unless the name of the patient is provided by the requestor. University Health System also requires a date of birth, to avoid misidentifying patients with similar names. Under federal law, patients may choose to prevent any information about them to be released to the public or media, including their presence in the hospital. Information about patients who are minors can only be released with the written permission of a parent or legal guardian.

Patient conditions include:

  • Undetermined. Patient is awaiting assessment.
  • Good. Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable, and indicators are excellent.
  • Fair. Vital signs are stable.
  • 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.

University Health System may disclose that a patient was “treated and released” or “treated and transferred.” However, federal law does not allow the release of the date the patient was discharged or where the patient went upon release without patient authorization.

Policy Summary

University Health System strives to keep the public informed of its activities and to cooperate with the news media. However, protecting a patient's privacy and maintaining confidentiality of healthcare information are of paramount importance. Inquiries regarding patients must be directed to the proper person defined in this policy. Directory information, including condition, may be released for adult patients without specific written authorization by the patient unless the information is protected by state or federal law, or the patient requests that no information be released.

Minors

University Health System will not release any information regarding a minor without a written consent of the parent or legal guardian.

Disasters

In the case of a disaster, University Health System has a responsibility to keep the public informed while maintaining the privacy rights of patients. Laws governing the release of patient information to the media do not change in disaster situations. A reporter must have the patient’s name before any individually identified information can be released to the media, and only the patient’s general condition can be released.

In the case of disaster, a member of the Corporate Communications staff will be available to the news media at all times, either in person or by telephone or other electronic communications. All efforts will be made to provide current information to the media as soon as possible.

University Health System may tell the media the number of patients brought to the facility by gender or age group, and the general cause of their treatment needs (explosion, weather events, etc.) as long as it is not identifiable to a specific patient.

Deceased Patients

State and federal privacy protections continue to apply to a patient’s medical information even after the patient’s death. No information may be released unless the request contains the patient’s name and date of birth.

The death of a patient is considered to be a “patient condition” and may legally be disclosed with the one-word description “deceased,” if the inquiry contains the patient’s name. University Health System will verify that the patient’s family has first been notified and does not object to the disclosure.

Specific Situations

Inquiries involving the presence at a University Health System facility or the medical condition of criminal suspects or inmates should be directed to the law enforcement agency involved.

By law, the University Health System cannot acknowledge the presence of a psychiatric patient.