Media Requests for Patient Information

For Media: Patient Information & Contact Requests

When news media contact UCSF Benioff Children’s Media Relations requesting information about, and/or interviews with patients and families, the media relations team will carry the request to parents as appropriate-–but the following requirements must be met:
  • The media outlet must have the child’s first and last name.      
  • That name must be listed in the Hospital Directory with no restrictions made on release of condition.

    Note: There can often be a delay of up to 24 hours before a patient’s name appears in the Hospital Directory (particularly patients admitted through Trauma.)

Other items to be aware of:

  • Parents must sign a consent form prior to any interviews taking place on hospital property. The Media Relations staff will manage legal releases and obtain the written or verbal permission of the patient, or in the case of a minor, the parent or legal guardian, for photos and interviews.
  • Media Relations, in conjunction with care providers, may determine that it is in the best interest of parents not to be immediately approached about media interest. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland will follow up with those requests when the time is appropriate.
  • It is the obligation of the Media Relations staff to let the parents know about all media requests.
  • Parents will not be asked multiple times to submit to a news media interview. When their response is “No”, it is final, unless the family notifies Children’s staff that they want to reconsider the request.
  • Only the child’s legal guardian will be asked to do interviews.
  • Media Relations will notify the patient care areas that may be impacted and if needed make special arrangements for media access and filming. To avoid delays, make arrangements in advance.
  • We may deny media access to the patient if it is determined the presence of media or photographers would aggravate the patient’s condition or interfere with appropriate clinical care.

Patient Condition Reports

Information can be released only to those who ask about a patient by their full name.

Provided that the patient has not opted out of the hospital directory the hospital representative can release:

  • Name
  • One-word condition
  • General location

The patient has the option to expressly state that he or she does not want information released, including confirmation of his or her presence in the facility.

While the HIPAA privacy regulations restrict the information healthcare providers may release, patients (18 or older) or parents/legal guardians of patients (17 and under) are free to release their own personal information or to consent to interviews providing it doesn’t interfere with their medical treatment.

Videotaped or tape-recorded interviews, photographs or any other interaction with a patient requires written patient authorization.

Patient's Condition

Patient conditions as determined in consultation with the physician of record may be reported as:

Below are the conditions approved by the American Hospital Association for release of information about a patient:

  • Undetermined - Patient awaiting physician assessment.
  • Good – Vital signs, such as pulse, temperature, and blood pressure are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable and the outlook for recovery is good to excellent.
  • Fair – Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient may have complications.
  • Serious – Acutely ill with questionable prognosis. Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. There is a chance for improved prognosis.
  • Critical – Questionable prognosis. Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Major complications are involved.

The term “stable” will not be used as a condition.

Public Record Cases

Patients involved in matters of public record have the same privacy rights as all other patients. The name verification requirement and the one-word condition rule still apply. In such cases, media inquiries may be referred to the appropriate public agency, including the medical examiner, law enforcement agency, fire/rescue transport agency or health department that receives such reports.

Death of a Patient

A patient’s death cannot be reported or confirmed until efforts have been made by the attending physician to notify the patient’s next-of-kin. At that time, and unless the deceased’s legal representative requests that the information be withheld, Media Relations staff may report only that the patient is deceased.  No other information may be provided such as the time or cause of death without individual authorization from a personal representative of the deceased.According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals cannot share information with the media on the specifics about the circumstances of a death without permission of the deceased’s next-of-kin or other legal representative.

Matters of Public Record

Matters of public record refer to those situations that are by law reportable to public authorities, such as the police, coroner or public health officer. While laws and/or regulations require healthcare facilities to report a variety of information to public authorities, it is not the responsibility of facilities to provide that information in response to calls or other inquiries from the media or other parties, including law enforcement officials. Instead, such calls should be directed to the appropriate public authority.

Releasing Information After Hours

A Media Relations representative is always available. If you need to contact a media relations professional after normal business hours, ask the hospital operator to page the media representative on call.

Or, you may ask for the night/weekend nurse manager, who will be able to give you the one-word condition of a patient after you ask for the patient by name.

For all media requests, please contact:

Lorna Fernandes
Senior Public Information Representative, Public Affairs
UCSF Office of Communications

Tel: 510-428-3069 | Cell: 510-410-0389

After Hours: (415) 502-6397

HIPAA Regulations & Release of Patient Information

While we strive to provide quality media assistance and access to our facilities and expert resources, our top priority is protecting the privacy and security of the patients we serve. We have legal and ethical responsibilities to preserve patient confidentiality. The patient has specific legal rights to privacy as governed by several federal and state laws, as well as standards set forth by the Joint Commission.

For example, the patient’s medical records are by law private and confidential. The medical records can only be released with the permission and written authorization of the patient (if 18 years or older), patient’s parents/legal guardian or as required by the court process.

The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) enforces even more privacy measures. HIPAA privacy regulations restrict the information healthcare providers may include in a patient directory and release to the public, including news media.

In This Section
Media Requests for Patient Information
Contact Media Relations
Media Relations Team

Lorna Fernandes
Senior Public Information Representative, Public Affairs
UCSF Office of Communications

Tel: 510-428-3069 | Cell: 510-410-0389

After Hours: (415) 502-6397