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Patient Rights and HIPAA

Topic Overview

What are patient rights?

As a person receiving health care, you have certain rights. Federal laws protect some of those rights, like the right to see your medical records and keep them private. Many states also have laws protecting your rights. Hospitals and other health care facilities often have a "bill of rights" for patients.

The American Hospital Association has outlined some of the basic rights you should expect when you are in the hospital.1 For example, you should expect quality care from your providers and know who is caring for you. And you have the right to keep your health care private.

You also can expect help when you leave the hospital. This includes help knowing what self-care or follow-up care you may need, as well as help understanding your bill or insurance.

One important right for patients is called informed consent. This means that your doctor gives you enough information to help you make decisions about your treatment. You are told the risks and benefits of certain treatments and what your options are. You can ask questions about your treatment options. This helps you choose the care that is best for you.

Mental health care

Most states and many health care groups have a bill of rights for people with mental health problems. These rights include strict rights to privacy (or confidentiality) with respect to your illness and treatment plan. They also include the right to treatment that puts the fewest possible restrictions on your lifestyle.

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) helps to keep your health information private. HIPAA requires that providers, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes, keep your health information private.

A federal law protects your health information in electronic form. It requires organizations covered by HIPAA to keep electronic information about your health private. Groups that must follow HIPAA laws include health plans and most health care providers. A federal law also helps to keep private any information that health care providers discuss with one another.

References

Citations

  1. American Hospital Association (2003). The Patient Care Partnership: Understanding Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities. Available online: http://www.aha.org/content/00-10/pcp_english_030730.pdf

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Last Revised December 18, 2012

Last Revised: December 18, 2012

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