Guidelines for Media

Journalists are welcome at OU Health while following protocols set in place to respect the privacy of our patients and their families while telling OU Health related stories. There are some restrictions and we do strictly adhere to the policies and guidelines listed below.

OU Health Media Guidelines Overview

OU Health and the news media have a responsibility and a joint interest in working together so that the news is able to be reported promptly and is readily available. There is sometimes a fine line between confidential information and information that the public has the right to know. The following guidelines are modeled after those established by the American Hospital Association and are endorsed by the Oklahoma Hospital Association. They have changed significantly from past guidelines for releasing information on the conditions of patients, to comply with state and federal privacy laws, including the health information privacy standards of Administrative Simplification Provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Understanding that OU Health’s first responsibility is to protect the confidentiality, health and legal rights of each patient.

Media Visits to OU Health

News media are asked to call the media relations and storytelling team hotline at (405) 271-6864 prior to their arrival on OU Health property. An OU Health media relations and storytelling team member will coordinate your visit and escort you to your campus destination.

We have strict rules regarding patient confidentiality. Therefore, we must have patient consent forms signed before journalists are permitted to use names, photos or recordings of OU Health patients. Read on below to learn more about patient information that OU Health can release.

Parking is available and our media relations and storytelling team member specialists can provide you with clear directions for your needs.

Release of Patient Information

OU Health may release certain patient information included in what the HIPAA privacy standards call the hospital’s facility directory. As long as, the patient is informed in advance, either orally or in writing, and does not object, either orally or in writing, a hospital may disclose the following information, only to persons who inquire about the patient by their full name.

Patient Information, Condition & Location: What You Can Release

Information about a patient’s condition may be released only if the inquiry contains the patient’s full name. Requests for information not containing the patient's full name will be referred to public entities (such as the coroner’s office, police, fire or health department.) If you provide the patient’s full name, OU Health may release a one-word condition if the patient has not objected to the disclosure.

Minors

If the patient is a minor, permission for the release of any information must be obtained from a parent or legal representative.

Definitions of Patient Conditions

Condition – For the one-word condition, OU Health will use one of the following five terms: “undetermined,” “good,” “fair,” “serious,” or “critical.”

  • Undetermined: Patient is awaiting 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.

Note: “Stable” is not an official condition.

Patient Location

The patient’s location may be included in the hospital directory to facilitate visits by friends and family, as well as the delivery of flowers and gifts. However, as a matter of policy, the patient’s location will not be given to the media.

Beyond the One-Word Condition: Media Access to Patients

Media representatives and photographers must contact an OU Health media relations and storytelling team member for assistance in obtaining interviews and/or photographs of patients, employees, and areas of the hospital. (See section titled “Photographs/Interviews/Videotaping by the Media” below.)

When Media Will Not Receive Patient Information

  • When a patient requests that no information is released
  • When knowledge of a patient’s presence or location in the hospital could place the patient, hospital employees and/or medical staff in danger (i.e., a stalker or abusive partner)
  • When knowledge of a patient’s location within the hospital could result in embarrassment for the patient (i.e., admission to a psychiatric or substance abuse unit)
  • When the hospital employees and/or medical staff are, or may be, parties to litigation
  • When a patient is in custody of the state (i.e., Department of Human Services, incarcerated or in psychiatric care)
  • When, in the judgment of hospital employees and/or medical staff, that an interview would aggravate a patient’s condition, or is inappropriate due to unique circumstances, OU Health reserves the right to deny access to the patient without seeking consent
    • As soon as circumstances permit, an OU Health media relations and storytelling team member may make the request for an interview

Patient Loss of Life

The death of a patient must be reported to the authorities by the hospital as required by law. Typically, a report will be made after efforts have been made to notify next-of-kin. Information about the cause of death must come from the patient’s physician, and its release must be approved by a legal representative of the deceased. Before information confirming a death is released to the media or others, a written authorization from the next-of-kin or the decedent’s legal representative is advised.

If the death is subject to an investigation by the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office, inquiries or requests for details should be directed to the M.E.’s office, (405) 239-7141.

Matters of Public Record

Public record matters refer to situations reportable by law to authorities, such as law enforcement agencies, the coroner, or a public health officer. According to HIPAA standards, patients involved in public record situations have the same privacy rights as all other patients, as far as OU Health is concerned. The mode of transportation by which a patient arrives at the hospital should have no bearing on the hospital’s approach to releasing information about the patient.

While law and/or regulations require health care facilities to report a variety of information to authorities, it is not the responsibility of facilities to provide that information in response to calls or inquiries from the news media or other parties. Once the patient’s name has been provided to an OU Health media relations and storytelling team member by the media, only a one-word condition can be given.

Requests for additional information should be directed to the appropriate public authority. That authority will be guided by the applicable federal or state statutes as to whether it can release information.

Celebrity and public figures are protected by the same standards as all OU Health patients when it comes to policies regarding releasing information to the media.

Photographs/Interviews/Videotaping by the Media

OU Health requires that a media relations and storytelling team member accompany news personnel any time they are on hospital or clinic grounds. No photographs, audio/video recordings or interviews of patients may be taken within the facility or on hospital property without the patient’s prior written consent, or the written permission of a parent or legal representative.

The following activities require written authorization (signed consent form) from the patient:

  • Releasing a detailed statement (includes anything other than a one-word condition)

  • Collecting multimedia content (either video or stills) of the patient

  • Media interviews with patients or physicians speaking about a patient

Deceased or unconscious patients are not to be photographed or recorded under any circumstance, regardless of whether they are in the hospital or on hospital property.