To welcome news media to Harlingen Medical Center (HMC), the following guidelines have been developed. Our goal is to make accessing Harlingen Medical Center, and our expert medical staff, as easy and efficient as possible for the media while still complying with Federal regulations such as HIPAA and American Hospital Association guidelines.
Please contact the Business Development and Marketing department (see below) to schedule interviews with physicians or any member of HMC’s staff. Please note that we are unable to guarantee availability of physicians, staff or patients for interviews.
Advance notice of interviews, videotaping or photo opportunities at Harlingen Medical Center is necessary so that the Business Development and Marketing staff can arrange for an appropriate location, notify patient care areas and staff that will be affected and arrange for patients, families, physicians and staff suitable for the story.
To protect the privacy of all patients and families at HMC and facilitate access to patient care areas, a representative from Business Development and Marketing must accompany all reporters, film crews and photographers on the HMC campus. In addition, we request that media respect the confidentiality of our patients and only use the information gained during interviews/tapings of patients under those circumstances designated by the informed consent.
Release of Patient Information and Conditions
Under the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), healthcare organizations must comply with new federal privacy regulations. The new HIPAA Privacy Rule is codified at 45 C.F.R. part 164, and limits the ability of the healthcare organization to disclose information to the media. This summary is designed to explain these new limits to the media and facilitate understanding and cooperation between the media and healthcare personnel.
HIPAA does allow a healthcare organization to disclose to the media certain limited information from the organization’s directory unless the patient objects. 45 C.F.R. § 164.510(a). Under this limited exception, the hospital may only disclose the following information if the media representative asks for the patient by first and last name:
- Whether the patient is in the healthcare organization. Although the organization can disclose whether the person is a patient, it cannot disclose to the media where the patient is located.
- A description of the patient’s general condition, e.g., whether the patient’s condition is “undetermined,” “good”, “critical”, or the patient has been “treated and released.” The healthcare organization may not disclose any specific medical information about the patient. 45 C.F.R. § 164.510(a)(1)(C).
The healthcare organization may not provide this information if the patient has objected to such disclosures or if the organization determines that it is not in the best interests of the patient to disclose the information.
Penalties and Wrongful Disclosures
Penalties for using or disclosing protected health information about a patient, without proper permission, may result in fines that can range from $250 per violation (for innocent violations) to $250,000 and 10 years in prison for intentionally wrongful disclosures.
Media Contact Information
Business Development and Marketing staff at Harlingen Medical Center is available to assist news media in answering questions about the hospital, locating an expert spokesperson, or obtaining more information on a news release or special event.