The healthcare industry has been enjoying a healthy and steady rate of growth these past few years. The incentives provided by the government have allowed more people to gain access to proper healthcare, which means there are more people using health care-related services than ever.
As the industry shifts into high gear, concern surrounding health law and patients’ rights has been raised along the way. Patients need to know exactly what their rights are and the doctors treating them should be more than happy to inform them.
One of the most basic rights every patient has is the right for open and honest communications. Top health law universities like Hofstra Law are adding communications classes as part of their health policy master’s program to stress the importance of this basic right.
The AMA’s Code of Medical Ethics also stresses the importance of communicating openly and honestly with patients at all times, regardless of the situation the doctor – and patient – is in. Clear communication is the very foundation of our healthcare industry.
There are circumstances when both the doctor and the patient need to make a critical decision regarding the future medical care and additional steps to be taken. In these circumstances, honesty and clear communication are the only way a calculated decision can be made.
The second basic right every patient has is the right to informed consent. This is part of the right for clear and honest communications we talked about earlier. When informing a patient of a particular medical procedure that needs to be taken, every doctor must clearly explain a few things:
- The treatments that will be performed by the doctor
- Whether the treatments are minor or major
- The purpose of the treatment
- The effects or goals that the doctor is trying to achieve with the treatment
- The risks associated with the treatment
- All alternatives that the patient may consider instead
These details are critical to the patient. Only by knowing these details and getting clear and accurate analysis from the doctor providing the treatment can the patient give informed consent to continue with the medical treatment or procedure.
Similar to the previous basic right, informed consent is also among the many factors that have shaped our healthcare industry to be what it is today.
Of course, under most circumstances, the communications between a doctor and his or her patient must remain confidential. The information shared during a doctor-patient consultation session is considered privileged and cannot be shared with other parties without the permission of the patient.
This particular patients’ right is affecting the medical information sharing landscape we have today. Even with digital medical imaging, cloud computing and a vast array of other technologies advancing the healthcare industry, all information gathered and processed by hospitals and medical institutions is still protected by the patient’s right for confidentiality.
These are just the three most basic patients’ rights and how they affect (and have been affecting) the healthcare industry. They are the core foundations of our healthcare system and the guiding values of how medical services are provided.