Patients with Back or Neck Pain Have a Voice in Their Spine Care

Woman Holding her NeckAs a patient with neck or back pain, you have specific rights that help protect you and your information. There are many rights backed by federal law such as the right to obtain a copy of your medical records and to keep them private. Here, outlines some important points about your Patient Bill of Rights.

Origin of the Patient Bill of Rights
The Patient Bill of Rights, adapted in the 1970s by the American Hospital Association, was put in place to inform patients of what could reasonably expect while in a hospital or doctor’s office. Of course, many aspects of healthcare have changed since the 1970s, including the addition of the Affordable Care Act.

However, many of the same rights still apply. So, whatever type of spinal disorder you have—such as a lumbar herniated disc, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, or whiplash—you have rights as long as know what those rights are!  

Information for Patients
Under the Patient Bill of Rights, patients are entitled to receive accurate and ease-to-understand information about their healthcare plan, physicians and other medical practitioners, and facilities where care (eg, diagnosis, treatment) is provided. There are services and trained providers available to help patients who do not speak English, have a disability (eg, sight, hearing), or simply don’t understand.

  • The goal is to ensure that patients are given information to make informed healthcare decisions.

Choice of Providers and Plans
Once you have the medical information about plans, professionals, and facilities, it is now up to you as a patient to make decisions on who to see and where. Patients have the right to a choice of healthcare providers they deem fit to provide the required care. Multiple doctors and facilities can be hard to choose from; so medical professionals and insurance providers are there to help.

Participation in Treatment Decisions
While physicians and other medical professionals can recommend a medication to improve your health or treat a disorder, you have the right to refuse treatment. This part of the Patient Bill of Rights empowers patients to know about all the available treatment options available, including medications.

  • Advanced Medical Directive allows an adult to designate a person of their choice as their voice should they become incapacitated, or unable to express their wishes involving health and treatment (even end of life decisions). 
  • When the patient is a minor—the parents, a guardian, family member, or other designated individual(s) can represent the child.

In either case, it is important to make choices and put them into the proper documentation in case of an emergency, or well in advance of need.

Confidentiality of Health Information
We all want to know that we can trust our spine surgeon, primary care doctor, orthopaedic nurse, neurologist, pain management specialist, or other medical professional not to disclose any personal information. This section reassures you, as a patient, that you have the right to talk— in confidence—to your healthcare provider and have your information protected.  

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) require most healthcare providers, including pharmacies and healthcare facilities to protect the privacy of your information. While it isn’t a requirement that you give your healthcare provider written consent to share your medical information, many healthcare providers will ask for a written agreement to ensure complete obedience to the HIPAA guideline. If you would like a copy of your medical records, this right is supported in the bill.

  • It’s important that you let your physician know if any of the information on your medical records is incorrect or incomplete.

Informed Consent
Informed consent helps to ensure that accurate and complete information is communicated to a patient by their healthcare provider. Before any treatment is provided, informed consent means that you and your doctor have discussed, and you completely understand the:

  • Diagnosis of your condition, if known
  • Nature and purpose of the treatment options or procedures
  • Risks and benefits of treatment options or procedures
  • Other treatments that may be available and their risks and benefits
  • Risks and benefits of not receiving the suggested treatment or procedure

It is vital that informed consent is covered. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it is a back-up system designed to protect patients and physicians. As mentioned above, if you are not able to make decisions for yourself, the informed consent process will be handled by the person you have designated to make those decisions for you.

As a patient, you are a vital part of your healthcare team. It is important that you know your rights, and that they are completely understood. If any part of your diagnosis, treatment recommendation(s) or procedure(s) is unclear, please ask your healthcare provider or patients’ right advocate for clarification. We want you to rest assured you’re being treated with the best care available.

Updated on: 12/15/15
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