A helpful suggestion for emergency room personnel (updated)

Close friends of mine received the kind of phone call we all dread a couple of days ago:

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx."
My friends went through hell for about 20 seconds. They had to state their identity and wade through a couple of more interchanges before learning that their son was alive and expected to recover from a serious highway accident. These 20 seconds of anguish, uncertainty, fear and suffering are unnecessary and cruel.

The emergency room protocol apparently does not regard telling relatives whether their loved one is alive or dead as vital information to be communicated in the first breath.

When the patient is alive, why not have a protocol that reads:

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx, who asked us to call you."
Or

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx, who is recovering from an accident."
I cannot see a downside to making this a universal practice when a patient is alive and being treated. Stress like my friends endured is unhealthy. As a public health measure, I would like to see this become a universal practice.

Am I missing some reason why this isn't already the standard practice?

Update:

Two physicians and a couple of other people have written in to explain that this tratment is the result of government regulation. One doctor wrote:

Each of your proposed alternatives could be interpreted as a violation of HIPAA, in as much as each discloses, or at least implies, an item of personal medical information: the fact that the individual in question is an ER patient. The actual message used, the one you rightly call cruel, takes no such risks, and was no doubt approved by the hospital's HIPAA committee, or its HIPAA consultants, and/or its lawyers.


Anywhere you find nonsense, insanity, or cruelty in U.S. medicine, look always for government to be its cause.

Close friends of mine received the kind of phone call we all dread a couple of days ago:

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx."
My friends went through hell for about 20 seconds. They had to state their identity and wade through a couple of more interchanges before learning that their son was alive and expected to recover from a serious highway accident. These 20 seconds of anguish, uncertainty, fear and suffering are unnecessary and cruel.

The emergency room protocol apparently does not regard telling relatives whether their loved one is alive or dead as vital information to be communicated in the first breath.

When the patient is alive, why not have a protocol that reads:

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx, who asked us to call you."
Or

"Hello, this is the emergency room of xxxx General Hospital. We are trying to reach the parents of xxxx, who is recovering from an accident."
I cannot see a downside to making this a universal practice when a patient is alive and being treated. Stress like my friends endured is unhealthy. As a public health measure, I would like to see this become a universal practice.

Am I missing some reason why this isn't already the standard practice?

Update:

Two physicians and a couple of other people have written in to explain that this tratment is the result of government regulation. One doctor wrote:

Each of your proposed alternatives could be interpreted as a violation of HIPAA, in as much as each discloses, or at least implies, an item of personal medical information: the fact that the individual in question is an ER patient. The actual message used, the one you rightly call cruel, takes no such risks, and was no doubt approved by the hospital's HIPAA committee, or its HIPAA consultants, and/or its lawyers.


Anywhere you find nonsense, insanity, or cruelty in U.S. medicine, look always for government to be its cause.