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Exercising Your Patient Rights

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By Jillian Washington, Marketing & Communications Coordinator
Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum
As Americans, we generally know our rights: the rights to life, to hold property, to liberty and to the pursuit of happiness. But how well do we know our rights as patients?
Unfortunately, not very well at all.
Generally speaking, patient rights are the basic rules that apply to us and to our health care providers. Our doctors give us information about these rights at the time of care, and sadly, we read them about as well as we read the terms and conditions agreements that apply to our smartphones…which is to say, most of us don’t read them at all. We simply sign the stack of papers that describe our rights as patients and go on with our lives.
The fact is, as patients, we have certain rights. Some of these rights are guaranteed by federal law, and the most important of these is the right to have copies of our medical records.
In this modern age, we often have certain technologies – like patient portals - available to us. These portals allow us to access our medical records when we need them and when it’s convenient to us.
While many of our doctors have patient portals, there are still many who don’t, but this does not mean that we, as patients, do not still have the right to see and have copies of our medical records, regardless of whether those copies are paper or electronic.
There are any number of reasons why we might need copies of our health information – perhaps we have a new doctor or need to share our information with another doctor on our care team, or maybe we’re moving and need to take our information with us, or we could just want to make sure all our information is correct. No matter what our reason is, we have the right to see and have copies of that information, and we do not have to give a reason for wanting it.
There are things we can do to help us get copies of our information. It’s helpful to know what information we need, who has that information and how we want to get that information.
The fact is, the first and most important step in becoming an engaged patient is knowing what’s in our own medical records. We cannot make informed decisions about our health and our health care without this information, and as patients, we are entitled to it.

So use your patient rights – ask your doctors for copies of your medical records. Read it carefully and ask questions about it. It’s your health, and it’s your health information. Use it to your advantage.
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  • Lisa Stansbury Sunday, 15 November 2015

    Great topic Jillian Medicare patients also have rights to appeal a discharge, file a quality of care complaint and to request immediate advocacy. Appreciate your blog post.

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Guest Monday, 20 May 2019