Common Questions and Answers
Q: How do I contact the SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM media relations for more information about a news release or to request help?
A: Reporters and editors may call the Southwest Healthcare System Media Relations office at 951-304-7152. After working hours, please call the House Supervisor at 951-677-1111, who will put you in touch with a media expert. You may also email questions and requests to Brian.Connors@uhsinc.com.
Q: How do I arrange to cover a story at SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM or to interview a doctor or patient?
A: The SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM media relations provides assistance to news reporters, photographers and video crews who wish to arrange phone or in-person interviews with SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM physicians, scientists, staff and patients.
You will find that our assistance, whether arranging a simple phone conversation or an elaborate video shoot, makes the interaction smoother for all involved. We also can request physicians to assist you in meeting a story deadline.
In order to protect patient confidentiality, our assistance and presence with a hospital representative is mandatory for any visits by members of the media to Southwest Healthcare System's Inland Valley Medical Center and Rancho Springs Medical Center.
Patients who will be interviewed on video or photographed within a SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM facility must sign a HIPAA media release form, available from our Marketing Department. Please call us at 951-304-7152 to arrange interviews, visits or patient interactions. Please remember that we always consider the patient’s health, privacy and protection and the hospital’s protection of staff and patients when reviewing requests.
Q: How can I obtain a condition report on a SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM patient?
A: Due to patient confidentiality requirements, the SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM media team is available to provide the media with a one-word condition report on current patients involved in accidents, fires, and other news events, and only when instructed by the patient or their family. Additional information on those patients and any information on other patients is released only as permitted by patients and their families and when deemed appropriate by the Medical Centers’ Administration.
Q: What are the services offered by the SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM media relations team?
A: The SOUTHWEST HEALTHCARE SYSTEM media relations staff is available to respond to journalist inquiries about medical research, advances in patient care and general health and fitness news. Specifically, we provide:
- Assistance in identifying and scheduling interviews with experts; please give as much notice as possible
- Photographs, as available
- Coordination with the Southwest Healthcare System media relations office on news and news issues
Q: How does the media team work with regard to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the California Healthcare Association Guidelines?
A: Guidelines were created by the California Healthcare Association and were adapted and approved by Southwest Healthcare System.
Releasing Patient Information
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act's (HIPAA) medical privacy regulations govern the use and release of a patient's personal health information, also known as protected health information (PHI). If state law or hospital policy is more restrictive than HIPAA privacy regulations, the more restrictive law or policy will apply.
Under the HIPAA privacy regulations, patients must be informed about how their PHI will be used. They must be provided with the opportunity to deny or restrict the use or release of their information. Hospitals may use and disclose PHI without a patient's consent for purposes of treatment, payment and healthcare operations. In addition, the HIPAA privacy regulations have specific provisions for the release of limited information about the patient without the patient's authorization when someone specifically asks about the patient by name. Unless a patient objects, the following information may be placed in a hospital directory:
- The patient's name
- The patient's location in the health care provider's facility
- The patient's religious affiliation (may be released only to clergy - clergy do not have to inquire about a patient by name)
Disclosure of this information for directory purposes may be made to members of the clergy or, except for religious affiliation, to other persons who ask for the individual by name.
The HIPAA privacy regulations establish a minimum acceptable threshold for the use and release of a patient's health information. State and federal law, and hospital policies may establish stricter standards.
Patient Condition Reports and Information
Patient conditions may be provided in compliance with the limitations imposed by HIPAA privacy standards. If an inquiry is made using the patient's name, general condition information may be provided if it does not communicate specific information about the individual.
The American Hospital Association has suggested the following one-word descriptions of a patient's general condition.
- Undetermined: Patient awaiting physician 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.
- Treated and Released: Received treatment but not admitted.
- Treated and Transferred: Received treatment. Transferred to a different facility.
HIPAA guidelines are meant to preserve current state laws regarding minors. Generally, minor children (under the age of 18) may have information released with the consent of a parent or legal guardian, in accordance with the preceding guidelines.