MerrimackNewsroom

Media Contact

The marketing and communications department oversees all public/community/media relations, marketing and hospital planning for Merrimack Valley Hospital. We welcome media inquiries.

Media Contacts

Jean MacDougall-Tattan
Jean.MacDougall-Tattan@steward.org
978-420-1168

Media Relations

All media inquiries should be directed to Jean MacDougall-Tattan.

To protect patient privacy and confidentiality (see HIPAA guidelines below) and to accommodate requests for interviews and information about the hospital, its staff, employees and programs and services in a timely and accurate manner, Merrimack Valley Hospital asks members of the media to follow these guidelines:

  • All requests for patient conditions must go through Jean MacDougall-Tattan.
  • While on hospital property, all media representatives must be accompanied by a public affairs and marketing representative at all times.
  • Anyone entering the hospital with a recording device or camera (still or video) must be accompanied by a public affairs and marketing representative.
  • All requests to record, videotape or film must be made in advance by calling Public Affairs.
  • All patients who agree to be interviewed, photographed or videotaped on hospital property for any reason must provide written consent to the public affairs and marketing office. Only patients who give this consent may be interviewed, photographed, or videotaped.


HIPAA Guidelines for Releasing Information on the Condition of Patients

Merrimack Valley Hospital has always placed the highest importance on patient privacy and confidentiality. The implementation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 2003 has not substantially changed our policies and procedures in releasing patient information, but does ensure that all health care institutions follow the same guidelines to safeguard privacy and confidentiality.

In general, information about a patient may be released if it is included in the hospital's directory. Patients are given the opportunity to refuse inclusion in that directory.

Specifically, Merrimack Valley Hospital uses the following American Hospital Association guidelines for release of patient information to the public and the media:

  • Inquiries must identify the patient by name -- Information about the patient's general condition and location of an inpatient, outpatient or emergency department patient may be released only if the inquiry specifically identifies the patient by name. No information may be given if a request does not include a specific patient's name or if the patient requests that the information not be released. This includes inquiries from the media.
  • Release of patient's general condition and location -- As long as the patient has not requested that information be withheld, public affairs and marketing may release the patient's one-word condition and location to individuals who inquire about the patient by name, without obtaining prior patient authorization. This includes inquiries from the media.
  • Patient condition information -- The public affairs and marketing department releases all official patient information to media. In keeping with the guidelines of the American Hospital Association, we provide a one-word patient condition -- undetermined, good, fair, serious, or critical -- unless otherwise instructed by the patient. Patient conditions are defined in accordance with the following AHA standards:
    • Undetermined: Patient is awaiting physician and/or 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.


Death of a Patient 

The death of a patient may be reported to the authorities by the hospital, as required by law. Under HIPAA, hospitals cannot share information with the media on the specifics about sudden, violent or accidental deaths, or deaths from natural causes without the permission of the decedent's next-of-kin or other legal representative. A hospital also may not disclose information regarding the date, time, or cause of death to the media.

If a patient is treated and released 

If a patient has not specified that no information may be released, the hospital may disclose that a patient was treated and released. However, without patient authorization, it may not release information to the media regarding the date of release or where the patient went upon release.

In summary 

The hospital may release patient condition and location information only if:

  • the patient has not stated that he or she does not want information released, including information confirming his or her presence in the hospital.
  • in the hospital's professional judgment, releasing such information would be in the patient's best interest.

 


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