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Media Policy and Guidelines

Media Policy

Dignity Health operates six hospitals in the Greater Sacramento service area: Mercy General Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Folsom, Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Methodist Hospital of Sacramento, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Woodland Memorial Hospital.

Dignity Health’s communications team is available to assist with media inquiries. Media representatives must request all media interviews and photography with hospital staff or patients in advance through the Dignity Health communications department. In order to protect patient privacy, ensure confidentiality and appropriate sensitivity to our patients and family, news reporters and news photographers must be accompanied by a member of the communications team at all times while on site at our hospital campuses.

Media Access to Hospital Physicians, Staff and Patients

At Dignity Health, our top priority is patient care. We understand that media may request information or interviews from our physicians, staff and patients and we will make every effort to accommodate these inquiries. Please note that we may deny media access to a patient in our facilities if it is determined that media interviews or photography might aggravate a patient’s condition or disrupt their care or the care of other patients in the hospital.

To request information or an interview please contact:

William Hodges
Director, External Communications
[email protected]
(916) 851-2683

Dignity Health also has a 24/7 Media Line: (916) 642-9946

Guidelines to the Release of Patient Information

The Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) adds federal protection to patient privacy rights. A great resource for reporters is the California Hospital Association’s Guide to the Release of Patient Information to the media. Click here to download the guide The HIPAA privacy regulations strictly limit what patient information hospitals may share with the news media. Dignity Health follows these general guidelines.

Definition of Patient Conditions

Hospitals may disclose a patient’s one word condition in general terms that do not communicate specific medical information. The one word condition may be released to reporters who inquire and have the patient’s first and last names. Here are the one word conditions and descriptions:

  • Undetermined. Patient is 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

According to HIPAA guidelines, the following activities require prior written authorization from a patient.

  • Issuing a detailed statement, beyond a one word condition, regarding the nature of the patient’s illness or injury, his/her treatment and prognosis.
  • Videotaping or photographing patients
  • Interviewing patients

Other Applicable Federal or State Laws

Federal and state laws specifically prohibit hospitals from releasing any information about patients who are being treated for alcohol or substance abuse, and mental health patients.