What is “The Patient’s Bill of Rights”?

The Patient’s Bill of Rights was originally adopted by the American Hospital Association in 1973 with the expectation that hospitals and healthcare institutions would support these rights while delivering patient care. The AHA actually encourages states to “simplify or translate” this to meet the needs of their specific patient populations and ensure it is understandable to all. The Patient’s Bill or Rights is displayed in every healthcare facility and office as state law. Due to the fact that healthcare must be inclusive with both patient and provider, the bill was revised in 1992 to include the patient responsibilities. Regardless of what state, the bill has 3 main goals; to ensure the healthcare system is fair and meets the needs of the patient, gives patients a way to address issues they have, and encourages patients to take an active role in their health.   

There are 10 general patient rights; the right to be treated with respect. Be aware that any communication done through the patient portals go to the office staff and not directly to the doctor. You have the right to obtain medical records. You have the right to privacy of your medical records. Again, the patient portals are convenient but anything you communicate through there is visible to anyone in your chart. That includes the people answering the phones to make appointments at some places! You have the right to make treatment choices. Options should be explained in a manner you can understand and hear, many patients who are hearing impaired miss important medical instructions. 

Patients have the right to informed consent. This means that the procedure or treatment has been fully explained to you with the benefits and risks, expected outcomes, and potential for injury or death all discussed. If treatment has been explained to you in a manner you are able to understand you still have the right to refuse treatment. So many people leave their healthcare providers without a good understanding of what happened or what they need to do going forward. Please know that it is your right to hear all options so be assertive when it comes to this. In my own career I have encountered many highly educated, successful people who do not comprehend something about their own health. This is well known in the medical field so please do not ever be embarrassed about asking questions or admitting you don’t understand something.

Lastly you have the right to make decisions about end of life care.  Many patients believe that transitioning to hospice is something that will happen when the doctor thinks it is time. This is a common misconception. Hospice services are many times able to care for patients with chronic, long term illnesses that have no cure like COPD or Alzheimer’s Dementia. In my experience most patients know when it is time before the doctors or family. Talk to your doctor about options but remember the decision is ultimately yours and that includes which hospice agency to employ.