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Patient Conditions

The media can expect the following terms to be used to describe a patient’s physical condition. These standard descriptions were developed and are used by the Des Moines hospital community. The term "stable," by itself, is not a patient condition. Mercy does not validate condition assessments provided by law enforcement.

  • Good - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
  • Fair - Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. The patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
  • Serious - Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. The patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
  • Critical - Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. The patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
  • Deceased - This condition is released only if the patient is still in the facility and all of their next of kin have been notified. All information pertaining to cause of death must come from the Medical Examiner. Reporters will be directed to call the Medical Examiner’s office directly for this information.
  • Treated and released - Patient has received treatment, but was not admitted.
  • Treated and transferred - The patient was treated and transferred to another facility. The location of the facility cannot be released without patient consent.
  • Unavailable - Used when a patient has just arrived or is undergoing a medical procedure such as an X-ray, CT scan, surgery etc. Media should not assume "unavailable" means the patient's condition is a worst case outcome or death.

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