Patient Condition Information Release Policy

NorthShore University HealthSystem is, above all, a place where people come to get help. As such, we consider it our first responsibility to protect the privacy of our patients and their families.

As of April 14, 2003, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) placed strict restrictions on the information that can be released about a patient's condition. HIPAA guidelines state that inquiries must contain the patient's name; only a one-word statement of condition may be given. Patients must be listed in the hospital directory for the information to be released; the patient does have the option of "opting out" so that no information is made public. All requests for patient conditions are handled by Public Relations staff.

For other information, including experts to comment on stories, we ask that you use Public Relations as a resource. We understand the media's deadlines as well as the demands on physicians' time and can help facilitate interviews.

The following terms will be used to describe the patient's condition:

  • Undetermined
  • Good: Vital signs, such as pulse, temperature and blood pressure are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Outlook for recovery is good or excellent.
  • Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious. Patient is uncomfortable or may have minor complications. Favorable outlook.
  • Serious: Acutely ill with questionable outlook. Vital signs may be unstable or within normal limits. A chance for improved outlook.
  • Critical: Questionable outlook. Vital signs are unstable or not within normal limits. There are major complications; death may be imminent.

Information will not be released if the patient is:

  • Not in the hospital directory.
  • A police matter currently under investigation.
  • A minor.
  • Known or thought to have a mental disorder.
  • Hospitalized due to alcoholism or other substance abuse.
  • Or, in instances where death has occurred or is imminent and it is unknown whether family has been notified.

For information regarding a Medical Examiner's case, please contact either the Cook County Medical Examiner's office at 312.666.0500 or the Lake County Coroner at 847.377.2200.

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