When a loved one goes missing, it can create a lot of anxiety. No one wants to discover that a relative or friend has been in an accident or has suddenly become ill, but a hospital is one of the places where you might find your missing person. Unfortunately, no central database of hospital admissions records exists. You likely will have to call several hospitals about the person you are looking for. Be aware, too, that hospitals will not communicate any patient information if the patient does not want them to, or if the hospital's policies prevent them from disclosing this type of information.
Search Hospitals in the Area
Find out where the person was last seen or heard of, including any known residences, workplaces and travel routes. Look online or in the Yellow Pages to find public and private hospitals within your search area. Create a list of hospitals and their contact details. It's a good idea to include psychiatric units if you think it may be relevant.
Call the Hospital
Call the first hospital on your list and ask for the missing person by name. You may have to talk to multiple departments that may be relevant, such as the geriatric unit or the psychiatric ward. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, hospitals are permitted to tell you if someone is a patient at the facility if you ask for that person by name, unless the patient instructs the hospital not to reveal this information.
Ask About John Doe Patients
If your loved one is not listed as a patient, ask if the hospital has admitted someone who lacked identification when they were admitted. These patients will be listed as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe." Give a detailed description of your missing person such as their age, height, build, ethnic appearance, eye color, and distinctive features such as tattoos, scars and birthmarks. Ask the staff to check if the John or Jane Doe resembles this description.
Visit the Hospital
Visit a hospital with John Doe patients who match the description of your missing person, and take a photograph of the missing person with you. A photo makes it easier to compare whether a patient in the hospital's care is the person you are looking for. Also bring personal identification that shows your relationship to the missing person. Per HIPAA privacy rules, the hospital may share information only with a close relative or friend of the patient if it is in the patient's best interest to do so.
Repeat for Each Facility on Your List
Repeat the above steps for each hospital on your list. This may be a time-consuming exercise, especially if lots of facilities are in the local area, so ask others to help. If your inquiries don't turn up any information, find a missing person in hospital by expanding your search radius, or consider other options for tracking down your loved one, such as notifying the police or hiring a private investigator.
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- You can cover more ground by having others call some of the hospitals on the list too.
A former corporate real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and personal finance, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.