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Hospital lingo: What do patient conditions mean?

November 17, 2000

Hospital lingo: What do patient conditions mean?



By KATE COLEMAN / Staff Writer


Hi.

How are you?

"Fine, thanks. How are you?"

That's the typical answer to a general inquiry about someone's health. People don't usually reply, "Serious," or "Critical."

But those are words hospitals use to describe patient conditions. You've read them in the newspaper. You've heard them on the radio. What do they mean?

Tri-State area hospitals - Washington County in Hagerstown, Chambersburg and Waynesboro in Franklin County, Pa., City, Jefferson Memorial and War Memorial in West Virginia - follow American Hospital Association guidelines for releasing information on the condition of patients.

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Those guidelines provide that a patient has the option to expressly state that he or she does not want any information released. That includes confirming a person's presence in the hospital.

Without the patient's permission, only the following information about the patient's condition should be released:

Undetermined - Patient is awaiting a physician and assessment.

Good - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable.

Fair - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, but may be uncomfortable.

Serious - Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious.

Critical - Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious.

The use of the term "stable" as a condition is discouraged because it is unclear.

Vital signs include blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature.

The AHA guidelines also recommend that information not be released until next-of-kin has been notified.

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