Generally, you can find a patient in a hospital by contacting the hospital and asking for the patient by name, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. This works in most hospitals, although some may have policies against releasing any patient information without express permission from the patient.
Hospitals generally have departments designed to help visiting friends and family find patients, such as the information desks at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center or the patient information line at Yale-New Haven Hospital. People trying to locate a patient can usually visit in person or call on the phone to request information.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which regulates how and when health care providers can share patient information, does permit hospitals and doctors to confirm that they are treating a patient and share some information with the patient's family and friends, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, if the patient requests that all information be kept private, the hospital and staff are required to abide by the patient's wishes in most circumstances.
In some cases, the hospital or law enforcement may contact the family of a patient admitted to the hospital, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This usually occurs when the patient is brought into the hospital while unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and unable to make his own care decisions.