Patients have specific rights as well as responsibilities. To understand these, the American Hospital Association has developed a brochure, The Patient Care Partnership: Understanding Expectations, Rights, and Responsibilities, available in a variety of languages including English, Spanish and Vietnamese. The brochure outlines what to expect during your hospital stay, including:
- High quality hospital care;
- A clean, safe environment;
- Involvement in your care;
- Protection of the privacy of your medical information;
- Help when leaving the hospital; and
- Help with your billing claims.
Access to Your Medical Records
Right to Refuse Medical Care
You have the right to decide what may be done to your body during the course of medical treatment. Your physician will discuss with you the nature of your condition, the proposed treatment and any alternate procedures that are available. Your doctor also will provide you with information about the risks associated with certain medical procedures. This information will help you make an informed decision about the kind of treatment you want to receive.
If you become unable to make your own health care decisions and do not have a legal guardian or someone designated under a Medical Power of Attorney, then certain family members and others can make medical treatment decisions on your behalf.
Sometimes an accident or illness leaves an adult unable to tell the doctor what care you do or do not want. Talking your preferences over with family members will help ensure that your wishes are honored. State law allows you to name an adult to make decisions on your behalf.
For more information on advance directives in Texas, click here.
Both state and federal laws protect the privacy of patient information. Hospitals must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accessibility Act of 1996 that established national standards to protect a patient’s identifiable health care information. The law also addresses how protected health information may be used and disclosed and gives individuals the right to know and control how their personal health information is used. Access to patient information within the hospital is limited to direct caregivers or to obtain payment for services. General information is available on the federal government’s Web site at http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/.
Hospitals must have a records retention and destruction policy that complies with federal, state and local legal requirements. The policy specifies what information is kept, for how long and in which medium the information will be maintained. The policy also specifies the appropriate methods of destruction. The policy usually is related to the state’s statute of limitations provisions as well as maintaining minors’ records until they reach the age of majority, at least. Patients have the right to access their own medical records. Ask your hospital about its process.