When you or a loved one are in the hospital, you are likely to be overwhelmed and exhausted. Physical symptoms, a lack of sleep, and uncertainty about the future are all hard to withstand. What can make all of this even harder to tolerate? Difficult relationships with your medical team, confusion regarding treatment options, financial worries, safety concerns and other issues. What are the steps hospital patients can take to resolve problems? Read below to learn the how to get help with your concerns.
What are your rights?
Patient bill of rights are the basic rules of conduct between patients and medical caregivers, including healthcare institutions and their employees. Each bill of rights covers issues such as access to care, patient dignity, confidentiality, and consent to treatment.
How did the bill of rights start?
In the early 1970s (revised in 1992), the American Hospital Association (AHA) introduced a “Patients’ Bill of Rights” to help patients understand what they could reasonably expect while in the hospital. The AHA encouraged every US healthcare facility to adapt the rights to fit the needs of their patient community, therefore there are a variety of versions.
In 2003, the AHA published “The Patient Care Partnership” to help patients and doctors partner in healthcare. This publication outlines 6 basic rights for all patients:
- High quality hospital care
- A clean and safe environment
- Involvement in your care
- Protection of your privacy
- Help when leaving the hospital
- Help with your billing claims
What’s happening now?
In today’s fast paced world, the details included in each bill of rights are regularly evolving. Most hospitals have their own Patient Bill of Rights; you can find your hospital’s list of patient rights by searching your hospital’s website.
Additionally, states have their own Patient Bill of Rights. Find the information for your state by searching for “patient bill of rights” and the name of your state.
Try to work out your problem.
If you or a loved one are having a problem, the first thing you should do is speak directly with the staff person involved. Try to remain calm and provide as many details as possible. If this doesn’t solve your issue, ask to speak to a supervisor. Ask your primary care doctor, another staff member, a friend or family member to intervene if needed. Your health insurer may be able to help as well, depending on your concern and your coverage, so call and ask if they can help you resolve your issue.
If your problem remains unsolved, it might be time to seek help from the hospital administration.
Your hospital has a “help desk”.
Hospitals have employees, and sometimes whole departments, who focus on helping patients resolve issues. These employees might be called ombudsman, patient advocate, patient representative, patient complaint coordinator, or some similar name. Additionally, the hospital’s social worker may be able to help as well. Many hospitals post contact information for their ombudsman (or similar advocate) throughout the facility.
Most hospitals allow patients to access their legal departments, so if you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your conversations with the ombudsman (or similar advocate), consider reaching out to the legal department. Additionally, you can write a letter to the President of the hospital outlining your concerns and the previous steps you took.
Want to file a formal complaint?
If you still have concerns after speaking to your medical team and your hospital ombudsman (or similar employee) you can file a formal complaint with any of the following:
Attorney General – file a complaint with your state’s attorney general for issues including patient abuse and neglect
Medicare.gov – file a complaint about improper care or unsafe conditions, as well as complaints about a particular doctor or hospital
Joint Commission – report safety concerns, such as being given the wrong medication and healthcare acquired infections
Quality Improvement Organization – report issues such as inadequate treatment, and improper treatment, including medication or surgical mistakes, to these state offices for Medicare patients and their representatives
State Health Departments – report adverse medical events and healthcare associated infections to your state’s health department, as well as complaints about poor hospital conditions
State Medical Boards – report concerns about a doctor’s behavior such as unprofessional conduct and/or incompetent practice to your state’s medial board
Learn about hospital safety issues.
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