Media Inquiries about Coronavirus
Patient privacy is of the utmost importance at Cape Cod Healthcare. We are bound by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a national law which requires us to protect the personal health information of every patient we treat, including patients treated for the coronavirus (COVID-19).
HIPAA covers the following information:
HIPAA does not permit Covered Entities to disclose PHI – including basic demographic information such as names, addresses or dates of birth – to the media without the individual’s authorization. As a result, Covered Entities must be careful when discussing the status of specific COVID-19 cases with the media.
Hospitals and other health care facilities may disclose aggregate information to the media about the number of patients they are treating with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, but should be careful about revealing information about how the patient was exposed to COVID-19 or general information about where the patient lives, as this may allow the media to identify the patient through publicly available sources. Information must exclude all the following identifiers to avoid classification as PHI under HIPAA:
- All geographic subdivisions smaller than a State, including street address, city, county, precinct, zip code and their equivalent geocodes, except for the initial three digits of a zip code in certain circumstances;
- All elements of dates (except year) for dates directly related to an individual, including birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death, and all ages over 89 and all elements of dates (including year) indicative of such age;
- Telephone numbers;
- Fax numbers;
- Electronic mail addresses;
- Social security numbers;
- Medical record numbers;
- Health plan beneficiary numbers;
- Account numbers;
- Certificate/license numbers;
- Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers;
- Device identifiers and serial numbers;
- Web Universal Resource Locators (URLs);
- Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers;
- Biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints;
- Full face photographic images and any comparable images;
- Any other unique identifying number, characteristic or code; and
- Any other information that the Covered Entity knows could be used alone or in combination with other information to identify an individual who is a subject of the information.