What are Your Patients’ Rights in a Hospital?

patient's rights

Approximately 90% of Americans say that they’re satisfied with their hospital treatment in the last five years.

The US has some of the best hospitals in the world. Part of what makes our hospitals great are the standards to which they’re upheld. Among those important standards are patients’ rights in a hospital.

If you’re mistreated at a hospital, would you know what was within your rights? If the situation should ever occur, you should know where you can go for recourse and what you’re entitled to. 

Keep reading to learn more about your rights as a patient.

What Are a Patients’ Rights in a Hospital?

Enforceable patients’ rights in a hospital stem from a combination of federal law and state law. One of the most important pieces of legislation regarding patients rights is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

But you also have rights according to ethical medical practices as well as rights stemming from basic human rights. In addition to those, most hospitals also have a patients bill of rights, which all medical and non-medical staff must uphold.

Below, we’ve listed each of these in more detail. And this course details these rights for medical professionals specifically.

The Right to Informed Consent

Any time that tests, procedures or treatments are performed, a practitioner or facility should obtain your written and informed consent. You should have to sign a form giving your express consent before any treatment or care takes place.

But, more importantly, before you sign that document, you must receive the “informed” part of your consent. Informed consent refers to informing patients of potential risks, benefits, and all available options for treatment. It also means you’ve had the chance to ask questions, get answers, discuss your options with family or advisers, and make a proper decision.

The Right to Choose Your Treatment

Informed consent is a fundamental aspect of your right to choose a treatment option. As long as you’re deemed to be in a sound state of mind, it’s your right to choose your treatment. 

In addition to your right to choose your own course of treatment, you also have the right to refuse treatment (in most cases). One of the only ways you’re denied this right is if you’re not deemed cognitively capable of making the decision.

As part of your right to choose treatment, you also have the right to be treated for pain. When you’ve communicated that you’re in pain, your practitioner should address that immediately.

The Right to Your Medical Records (and Privacy)

Under the HIPAA, you have the right to your medical records. You can ask for your doctor’s notes, test results, emergency room or inpatient hospital records, and any other medical documentation that’s related to your care history.

Under that same Act, HIPAA regulated who else can access your medical records. But you have the right to deny access to people who can otherwise access your medical documentation. 

The Right to Quality Care

You have the right to know the names of the people who are caring for you. This includes nurses, aids, assistants, doctors, and surgeons. You can request the name of any doctors providing treatment or care as well as anybody assisting them.

Beyond that, you even have the right to get in touch with a surgeon after a procedure. And that right extends to the surgeon that performed your procedure – not just whoever is on call.

Also related to your right to quality care is your right to receive information in a way that’s understandable to you. That means that you can have information delivered in your preferred language. In the case you have vision, hearing, speech, or mental impairments, those needs must be met by the hospital as well.

The right to be informed of any mistakes or misconduct is also part of your right to quality care. Should something go wrong with your treatment, you should be told immediately. 

The Right to Emergency Services

The Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act guarantees that you have access to emergency care, even if you can’t afford to pay. In the case of medical emergencies, all hospitals are required to provide a medical screening exam. They must also stabilize you or transfer you to a facility that can.

The Right to Respect

It should go without saying that you have the right to be treated with both respect and courtesy. The right to respect and to be treated without discrimination extends to every patient, regardless of their particular health challenges. 

The right to respect means that cultural sensitivities and religious beliefs should be respected throughout your medical care. You also have the right to access religious services.

The Right to Choose Advocates and Visitors

If you’re receiving care at a hospital that participates in Medicare and Medicaid, you have the right to choose who comes to visit you. Visitors aren’t restricted to family members in these facilities. 

You also have the right to choose who you’d like to represent you at the hospital. In the case you choose not to advocate for yourself – or you become unable to do so – you can choose a spouse, relative, or friend to make decisions in your stead.

What to Do When Your Patient Rights Have Been Violated

If you feel that your patient rights have been violated, you should start by talking to the hospital staff. Sometimes, simply communicating the issues is enough to have it corrected.

But in the case that you’ve been grossly mistreated or the staff fails to address your concerns, you might seek out the hospital ombudsman or patient advocate.

More on Taking Care of Yourself

A patients’ rights in a hospital involve everything from the right to choose who visits you to the right to respect and informed consent. Most facilities are bound to all of the rights listed above. If you ever feel that your rights have been broken by a hospital, you should contact that ombudsman for recourse.

And in the process of taking care of your physical health, don’t forget all of the other important aspects of health. Learn more about taking care of yourself here.