Anyone that has ever had to navigate through the complex health care system in the United States recognizes they have specific rights to treatment, medical records, informed consent, and how their medical information is handled. Regardless of any health issues, or the means to pay for care, every patient has the right to be treated without discrimination, in a respectful manner, by insurance companies, health practitioners, and providers.
According to the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act), passed by the United States Congress in 1996, every patient has the right to confidentiality on their health, well-being, and PHI (protected health information). The protocol, policies and regulations serve to protect patient information that includes all medical test results, billing information, lab reports, and even doctor’s notes.
The act protects privacy rights of all electronically filed medical records including the security of electronic equipment that is used to transfer or store the records. Any patient that feels that their rights have been violated under the rules of HIPAA can file a formal complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Every patient should expect that every member of the medical staff including the receptionist, office managers and assistants have completed HIPAA training, and follow all the expected protocols.
Any patient that displays behavior using a sound mind has a full right and responsibility to understand every available option for treatment based on his or her medical condition. They also have full rights to decide and select the treatment they think is the best choice. To ensure this right is maintained, doctors, hospitals and medical facilities must offer the patient the right to informed consent.
Every reputable doctor, practitioner, or medical facility that provides a diagnosis, treatments, procedures, and tests can only perform their duties after obtaining a signed form that gives them consent. Every patient has the right to informed consent, and should only be asked to sign the form after being provided a clear and concise explanation of all the benefits and associated risks of participating in a treatment or test.
Refusing Medical Treatment
There are four extensive types of medical treatments that physicians provide their patients that include management, curative, preventative and palliative. Every patient has the right to choose or refuse any medical treatment for any reason, whether it is life-threatening, non-life-threatening, or end-of-life. Sometimes, patients refuse treatment due to expected or unexpected financial situations. It may be that the medical procedure or treatment is too costly and the patient simply does not have the funds, or insurance to pay for the treatment.
Ensuring a Patient’s Rights
It is the responsibility of every doctor, physician, medical care provider, nurse, or anyone on the medical staff to ensure that every patient’s rights have been upheld. Maintaining medical records, detailing treatments to help patients decide which procedure is best, and obtaining informed consent are all critical aspects to maintain the rights of every patient. Even patients that choose to refuse treatment must have their choice honored.
For medical facilities that use a medical call center, physician’s answering service, or nurse telephone triage service, it is important that each member of that staff has full HIPAA training and follows the procedures and protocol to maintain compliance within the law of honoring patient’s rights.
The easiest way that any medical facility can ensure that patients’ rights are being honored is to develop an efficient policy and procedure office manual that details day-to-day operations and how each part of patients’ rights must be maintained. Additionally, when hiring any medical answering service, the outsource company must also guarantee they follow strict protocol on maintaining the rights of patient information, health, treatment and other pertinent data.