Patient Safety: Know Your Health Care Rights

Health care is one of the most life-maintaining and personal fields that you will encounter and as a patient it is important that you know the rights guaranteed to you by federal and state laws. Patient rights are rules of conduct set in place for patients and medical caregivers, which includes hospitals and healthcare personnel.

There are two main pieces of legislation that protect patients on a federal level. These are the Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities, or the Patient’s Bill of Rights, of 1998 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Any violation of these rights could result in fines or prison time.

These laws cover several issues including patient dignity, medical confidentiality, consent to procedures and treatments, and access to care. They assure that the health care system is fair and they also give patients a way to address any problems they may have.

As a patient, you have the right to:

1. Choose your health care provider and health care plans.
2. Receive copies of your medical records.
3. Maintain privacy and confidentiality with your medical records.
4. Informed consent, which means that your doctor must give you all the information you need to make a decision on issues of health care
5. Seek medical care at an emergency department even if you cannot afford to pay for it.
6. Be treated with respect, consideration, non-discrimination and dignity by health care providers medical caregivers.
7. Approve or refuse the release of information maintained by Health Services.
8. To make a complaint against the health care services you have been provided.
9. A fast and objective review of any complaint you have against your doctor, other medical caregiver, hospital, or health plan.
If you have questions about your health care, be sure to ask your provider for help. Many hospitals have delegated patient advocates to help patients with any problems or concerns they may have.

Jaime Venditti, State Coordinator, New York Health Works