We too have a code for these types of situations on the phone. You call and say that you/or family wish to bring something to the patient, and if you are to leave it at the nursing desk or is the patient accepting visitors.
If they are dead, they are "no patient by that name is on this floor". If they are still with us, they will give a reponse like "the patient is not accepting guests at this time (means not going well), or even "leave it at the nurses station" (again not doing so well). Or you can get the cheery..."sure come on down and they will be happy to see you".
BUT...if you think about it, this information is NOT a need to know...therefore it is a grey area of HIPAA and grey areas typically are a no no to be safe. I had a pt that was transfered to the ICU after my shift and the only question I could really ask was about my care of the patient and reporting off to the next nurses about some helpful advise of things I did to help her personally. However, I really didn't...sooner or later I would proably find out..and I did...two weeks later she was brought back to my floor doing fine
. But I didnt' ask at all just in case because my knowing her condition wasn't a need to know for her care...