Time Magazine released a startling piece on the unbalance of health care in the free-market economy. There seems to be an unfair balance of power favoring the suppliers and providers of health care. For the patient, an exchange with anyone on the other side of the health care counter can make them feel pretty powerless: sign here, sign here, and pay this price here. Before throwing in the $38 sanitary towel and surrendering your rights and your wallet at the door, understand that you have rights as a patient in America that are important to know before, during, and after a visit to the health care world. Here some patient rights you likely didn’t realize you had, and what they mean to you.
#1. Informed Consent:
Florescent lights, X-Ray Camera, Action. Too often, people feel rushed and intimidated when behind closed hospital or clinic doors. Slow down. You, as a patient, have the right to fully understand the medical treatment that is being given to you. Confused? Stop and get clarification. The right to informed consent states that you have the right to receive accurate and easily understood information, which means:
- You are given the information about the possible risks and benefits of the treatment.
- You are given information on the upsides and downsides of other options, including inaction (not getting treatment).
- You have the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered to your complete satisfaction.
- You are given ample time to discuss with family members before making decision.
- You feel comfortable making a decision that is in your best self interest based on the information you’ve received.
What Does It Mean For You:
While most of the time you’ll have doctors that follow this practice and even educate you on informed consent, it’s a valuable piece of information to have because it removes the intimidation and puts the ball in your court. You have the time you need and have the right to fully understand the benefits or concerns with the medical treatment before making the decision to undergo it.
Your End Of The Bargain:
It is your right, but also your responsibility to speak up if you do not understand the treatment or any part of the treatment plan. Once agreeing to the treatment, it is also the responsibility of the patient to follow the recommended treatment.
#2. Right To Refuse Treatment:
Under the informed consent right of patients; you have the right to deny treatment even if it has negative consequences to your health. Understand that you are ultimately responsible for any of the consequences associated with that refusal.
Patients have the right to fully participate in the decision making process of their treatment. Patients who are unable to fully participate in their own healthcare decisions have the right to be represented by a parent, guardian, or family member.
#3. Access To Emergency Services:
Emergency service is one of the few areas of healthcare-without-insurance that’s covered by law. Under civil law, a treated person is responsible to pay for these services whether their healthcare provider fronts the bill or if they’re paying out of pocket, but the service itself must be available to all.
Unable To Pay:
If you have no insurance and are unable to pay, a private hospital can transfer you once stabilized to a facility for continued care.
Insured or not, you have the right to emergency services. While the textbook definition of “needing emergency services” is lengthy and academic sounding, know that if you’re in a situation where walking it off isn’t an option and immediate medical attention is necessary, the right of a patient to emergency services has your back.
A Few Key Points:
- You have the right to be treated until your emergency is stabilized.
- Without regard to your ability to pay, you have the right to be informed of your right to receive medical attention. This is to prevent discouraging people from being treated based on ability to pay.
- You have a right not to be transferred from an emergency care facility against your will.
#4. Right To A Copy Of Your Medical Records
Thanks to our trusty friends that designed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Acts of 1996 (HIPAA), issues regarding privacy and medical records help guarantee patients access to their health records. If we don’t give you a receipt your medical treatment is free! Well the law doesn’t quite state it this way, but you are entitled to a copy of your medical records at any time.
Why would you want them? If you find an error anywhere in your medical records, you can request that it be corrected or add information to your file if it is incomplete.
#5. Right Of Non-Discrimination
You have the right to respectful care from all members of the healthcare world at all times. This doesn’t mean you can file a lawsuit against the grumpy receptionist at your local pediatrician’s office, but it does mean that regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age, current or anticipated mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, or source of payment; healthcare providers must treat you with the same care and respect as the next person to walk through the door.
Patient Responsibility Is Key!
Remember that while you do have rights, responsibility is your end of the bargain. In order to receive the right to accurate and understandable information, it is your responsibility to provide correct and complete information about your medical history.