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Public Relations & Marketing Communications
2901 Hubbard
Ste. 2400
Ann Arbor, MI
Voice: (734) 764-2220
Fax: (734) 615-2169




How do I contact the UMHS media relations team for more information about a press release or to request help?

Reporters and editors may call the UMHS media relations staff at (734) 764-2220, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also e-mail to reach the entire media team at once.

On weekends or after hours, call the UMHS operators at (734) 936-4000 and ask to page the Public Relations team member on-call. (A UMHS PR team member is on-call from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. 7 days a week).

You can also e-mail our media coordinators individually:

Clinical research and care, administrative news, noteworthy patients, contact Kara Gavin at, Katie Gazella at or Krista Hopson at

UMHS Health Minute coordination and planning, various media inquiries, contact Andi McDonnell at

Comprehensive Cancer Center, including all cancer-related research and care, contact Nicole Fawcett,

Basic science, genetics, cell biology and biomedical research, contact Sally Pobojewski at or at (734) 615-6912.

Medical School Communications, including media relations, contact Mary Beth Reilly at

Events, awards and miscellaneous stories, contact Jessica Soulliere, (734) 764-2220.

Media escort and inquiries, contact Sam Jessie at

Director of Public Relations, contact Kallie Bila Michels at

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How do I arrange to do a story at UMHS or to interview a U-M doctor or patient?

The UMHS Media Team provides assistance to news reporters, photographers and video crews who wish to arrange phone interviews or in-person sessions with UMHS physicians, scientists, staff and patients.

We find that our assistance, whether in arranging a simple phone conversation or an elaborate video shoot, makes the interaction go much more smoothly for all involved. And, our assistance and presence is REQUIRED for any visits by members of the media to UMHS facilities, in order to protect patient confidentiality.

Patients who will be interviewed on video or photographed within a UMHS facility must sign a release form, available from our department. Please call us at (734) 764-2220 or e-mail to arrange interviews, visits or patient interactions

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How do I get a condition report on a UMHS patient?

Due to patient confidentiality requirements, the UMHS Media Team is available to provide the media with a one-word condition reports on current patients involved in accidents, fires, etc. Additional information on those patients, and any information on other patients, is only released as permitted by patients and their families. For a condition on a UMHS patient, call (734)764-2220 Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

For a patient condition after hours or on weekends, call the UMHS operators at (734) 936-4000 and ask to page the Public Relations team member on-call. (A UMHS PR team member is on-call from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week).

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Services offered by the UMHS media relations team

The UMHS Media Relations staff is available to field journalists' inquiries about cutting-edge medical research, advances in patient care and general health and fitness news.

Specifically, we provide:

  • News releases and tipsheets via fax, mail and e-mail. To receive UMHS releases and tipsheets, contact Kara Gavin or Krista Hopson.
  • Assistance identifying and scheduling interviews with expert sources from the U-M Medical School, M-CARE and U-M hospitals and health centers. Complete logistical support for broadcast or photography shoots is available; please give as much notice as possible.
  • Assistance as field producers for video or radio interviews, including conducting interviews when producers cannot accompany their crew.
  • Interviews with UMHS faculty and staff via our in-house broadcast-quality ISDN line or the U-M satellite TV facility.
  • A monthly package of sound bites and B-roll (called the U-M Health Minute) which TV stations can use to produce consumer-oriented health reports. Press releases on the same topics are available to all media via fax or e-mail. Contact Andi McDonnell for more information.
  • Weekly radio reports on health and medicine. Stations can call to tape the professionally produced report or a selection of sound bites they can use to build their own story. For more information, contact Andi McDonnell.
  • B-roll and photographs, as available.
  • Coordination with the U-M News & Information Services office on news and news issues.

How the media team works with regard to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association Guidelines

These guidelines were created by the Michigan Health and Hospital Association and were adapted and approved by the University of Michigan Health System.

Releasing Patient Information
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’s medical privacy regulations govern the use and release of a patient's personal health information, also known as “protected health information.” In the event state law or hospital policy is more restrictive than the HIPAA privacy regulations, the more restrictive law or policy will apply.

Under the HIPAA privacy regulations, patients must be informed about how their PHI will be used and given the opportunity to object to or restrict the use or release of their information. Hospitals may use and disclose PHI without a patient’s consent for purposes of treatment, payment and health care operations. In addition, the HIPAA privacy regulations have specific provisions for the release of limited information about the patient without the patient's authorization when someone specifically asks about the patient by name. Unless a patient objects, the following information may be placed in a hospital directory:

  • the patient's name
  • the patient's location in the health care provider's facility
  • the patient's condition, described in general terms that do not communicate specific information about the individual
  • the patient's religious affiliation (may only be released to clergy – clergy do not have to inquire about a patient by name)

Disclosure of this information for directory purposes may be made to members of the clergy or, except for religious affiliation, to other persons who ask for the individual by name.

The HIPAA privacy regulations establish a minimum acceptable threshold for the use and release of a patient’s health information. State and federal law, and hospital policies may establish stricter standards.

Patient Condition Reports and Information
Patient condition may be provided consistent with the limitations imposed by the HIPAA privacy standards. If an inquiry is made using the patient’s name, general condition information may be provided that does not communicate specific information about the individual. The American Hospital Association has suggested the following one-word descriptions of a patient's general condition.

Undetermined: Patient 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.

Treated and Released: Received treatment but not admitted.

Treated and Transferred: Received treatment. Transferred to a different facility.

Minor Children
HIPAA guidelines are meant to preserve current state laws regarding minors. Generally, minor children (under the age of 18) may have information released with the consent of a parent or legal guardian, in accordance with the preceding guidelines.

Emergency Circumstances
The covered health care provider must provide patients with the opportunity to object to the use and disclosure of directory information, when feasible. The privacy regulations address situations where the opportunity to object to or restrict the use or disclosure of a patient’s health information in the hospital’s directory cannot be practicably provided because of an individual's incapacity or emergency treatment circumstance. In such cases, a covered health care provider may use or disclose an individual's information in the hospital’s directory if the use or disclosure is (1) consistent with a prior expressed preference of the individual, if any, that is known to the covered health care provider; and (2) in the individual's best interest as determined by the covered health care provider, in the exercise of professional judgment. Both conditions must be true for a provider to release patient information contained in the hospital’s directory under HIPAA.

Confidential Information
In addition to the limitations on release of a patient’s health information imposed by the HIPAA privacy standards, state and federal law also may impose specific limitations.For example, some states have restrictions in place that do not allow the release of any information concerning the HIV/AIDS status of a patient. State laws may also specify that, for example, patients who are involved in an alcohol or drug-treatment program are entitled to complete confidentiality, including whether they are in fact participating in the program or not.

Media Access to Patients
When the media want to interview or photograph a patient, a member of the U-M Health System media team within the Department of Public Relations and Marketing Communications will check with the appropriate hospital staff to ensure the patient is physically and emotionally capable. The Public Relations representative must obtain the patient's permission. If the patient is a minor, permission must be obtained from the parent or legal guardian.

If the patient is under arrest, permission also must be obtained from the law enforcement officer in charge of the patient's custody.

Media representatives will be accompanied by a hospital public relations professional at all times while in the hospital.

Hospitals or other covered entities, pursuant to the HIPAA privacy regulations, may disclose information regarding a patient’s health to a public or private entity authorized by law to assist in disaster relief efforts. Information may also be released to these types of organizations for the purpose of coordinating with such entities in contacting a family member, personal representative, or person directly responsible for a patient's care.

The hospital should report the death of a patient to the authorities as required by law. Typically, public information about a death will be disclosed after efforts have been made to notify the next-of-kin. Information about the cause of death must come from the patient's physician, and a legal representative of the deceased must approve its release. This means that hospitals cannot share information with the media on the specifics about sudden, violent or accidental deaths, or deaths from natural causes, without the permission of the decedent’s next-of-kin or other legal representative.

Public Information
Police reports and other information about hospital patients are often obtained by members of the media. Health care providers are required to observe the general prohibitions against releasing health information about patients that are found in the HIPAA privacy standards, state statutes or regulations, and the common law, regardless of what information is in the hands of public agencies or the public in general.

Emergency Medical Services
EMS units or ambulance services that provide health care services to patients and bill for those services electronically are considered covered entities under HIPAA and are subject to the same restrictions on use and disclosure of a patient’s information.

Members of the clergy frequently request access to names and locations of patients in a hospital to determine if members of their congregations have been admitted. Patient names, location, general condition and religious affiliation may be released to members of the clergy if a patient has not opted out of the hospital’s directory. A patient may ask that the hospital not include his or her name and information in a hospital directory. A patient also may request that religious affiliation not be included in the directory. If the patient objects to inclusion of his or her name, clergy may not be told that person is in the hospital. If the patient does not object, clergy may receive the directory information without asking for the patient by name.

Additional Resources
For more information on HIPAA, go to the University of Michigan's web site at or the Department of Health and Human Services web site at

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