Information for journalists about patient privacy
UC Davis Health recognizes that print, broadcast and online media have a responsibility to keep the public informed and cooperates in providing accurate and appropriate information to media representatives. Our news service team in the Public Affairs Office is available to assist with news inquiries involving UC Davis Health, including its medical center, clinics, patients and health-care providers. The health system, however, is bound by federal and state regulations and policies regarding public access to patient information.
Following are guidelines to help you understand our commitment to patient confidentiality and the information that can and cannot be provided to reporters.
In most cases, one-word patient conditions can be released to reporters who inquire and have the patient’s first and last names. The hospital operator (916-734-2011) can transfer requests for one-word conditions to appropriate hospital personnel.
- Undetermined: The patient is in the process of receiving a medical assessment.
- Good: Vital signs (heart beat, breathing, blood pressure, temperature) are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
- Fair: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
- Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and perhaps not within normal limits. Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
- Critical: Vital signs are unstable or not within normal limits. The patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
- Deceased: News of the death of a patient is public information after the family has been notified or after all reasonable efforts to notify the family have been made. The cause of death can be released once it is noted on a death certificate.
- Released: Patient was treated and discharged from the hospital.
Patient information, including one-word conditions, cannot be released to the media if:
- The patient is a victim of sexual abuse
- The patient is a victim of child abuse
- The patient is receiving treatment for a psychiatric disorder
- The patient is receiving treatment for chemical dependency
- The patient is incapacitated and his/her physician has determined that release of information is not in the patient’s best interest
- The patient has requested that all of his/her health information be withheld from public disclosure
- The request does not include the patient’s first and last names
Media representatives may obtain additional information about or gain direct access to patients who are not included in the restricted groups listed above ONLY if the patient or his/her representative (a parent or guardian in the case of a minor) first provides written authorization to the Public Affairs Office. Access to or additional information about a patient will be denied if the patient does not provide written authorization or if his/her physician determines that contact with reporters would compromise the patient's condition or care. Access to some areas of the hospital are also restricted to patient-care teams, including surgery, the emergency room and intensive care units.
The following activities require advance authorization and coordination through the Public Affairs Office:
- Information beyond a one-word condition, including age, gender, extent of injuries, admission date and discharge date
Photography, videography or interviews
A public information officer is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to support reporter's requests. To request additional information about or to arrange for interviews, photography or videography with a UC Davis Health patient or care provider, call Public Affairs at 916-734-9040 during business hours; after business hours or on weekends or holidays, call the hospital operator at 916-734-2011, who will page the on-call public information officer.
Information on patients involved in incidents of public record (those reportable to fire departments, law enforcement, health departments or other public authorities) will be provided using the same guidelines noted above. Media queries may be referred to the public authority that made hospitalization part of a public record.
Media representatives cannot enter any of the health system's premises without prior authorization from the Public Affairs Office.