In an era of instant mass communication, health care providers have a plethora of tools at their disposal to get the word out about new procedures, services, equipment and facilities. Yet, establishing relationships remains at the core of communicating with the public and the press.
Federal patient privacy regulations established by HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), have set new parameters for what information hospital public relations/marketing personnel can release.
HIPAA requires that every patient treated at a health care facility be asked if he or she wants to “opt in” or “opt out” of the hospital’s directory. That directory lists the patient’s name, room number and whether the patient wants visitors or anyone notified of the hospitalization. If the patient is unable to communicate or is a minor, the family is consulted.
If a patient “opts out” of the directory, mail or flowers addressed to that patient will be returned to the sender, says Mylinda Cane, regional director of marketing for the Community Health Care System, which includes the Community Hospital of Munster, St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.
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