Ensuring Quality Healthcare and Billing: How a Patient Bill of Rights Impacts Medical Standards and Safety

The Patient Bill of Rights ensures patients get the right quality of care. Learn as we discuss its impacts on medical standards and safety.

Quality in healthcare isn't just about the treatments or surgeries a patient receives. It’s about timely attention, accurate diagnosis, safe procedures, as well as fair billing practices. Health isn't just physical — the quality of healthcare profoundly shapes experiences, influences one's mental well-being, and builds trust in our healthcare system. But here's the hard truth: While there are many patients who always receive the best care from their healthcare providers, many others do not. These are the patients who are finding themselves stuck with nowhere to turn in an overwhelming healthcare system. The Patient Bill of Rights addresses this. It serves as a guide to ensure that all patients receive the quality care they deserve.

Understanding the Patient Bill of Rights

Observing Patient Bill of Rights - Doctors in a hospital speaking to a senior patient in a wheelchair.

The Patient Bill of Rights strives to promote effective communication, mutual respect, and coordinated care between patients and healthcare providers. The introduction of the AHA's Patient Bill in the 1970s became a major milestone in recognizing and formalizing these rights. Since then, it has gone through a number of revisions to ensure it can adapt to a modern landscape. This way, it can better reflect the growing emphasis on patient empowerment.

Right to Choose Providers. Patients are free to choose healthcare providers who can deliver high-quality care when they need it.

Confidentiality of Health Information. Any interactions with healthcare providers are confidential, and identifiable healthcare information is protected.

Participation in Treatment Decisions. Patients have the right to participate in all decisions related to their healthcare. This also includes the right to refuse treatment.

Consumer Responsibilities. As part of a healthcare system that protects a patient's rights, it's also encouraged that any patient assumes reasonable responsibilities to achieve the best outcomes and support a quality environment.

Emergency Services. If someone is in critical condition, he or she has the right to receive emergency healthcare services.

Complaints. Patients have the right to a fair, quick, and objective review of any complaint made against health plans, healthcare providers, or the quality of the care received.

Dignity and Respect. Every patient deserves considerate and respectful care. Everyone in the healthcare industry should ensure this level of respect under all circumstances.

Right to Information. Patients have the right to receive accurate information about their health plan, healthcare professionals, as well as health facilities.

Ensuring Medical Standards Through Patient Empowerment

Gone are the days when it was solely provider-centric care. It's all about collaboration now, where patients play an active role in their healthcare journey. Patient empowerment is a truly transformative journey that gives patients the confidence and knowledge to stand up, speak out, and take charge. It involves providing clear and detailed information to patients about everything that involves their care—putting them in a better position to make a difficult decision with certainty.

Patient empowerment is a dynamic process that is connected to other aspects of healthcare, including informed consent.

Informed Consent and Its Role in Maintaining Medical Standards

Informed consent is more than not just a legal obligation; it is a moral obligation of healthcare providers. This originates from the patient's right to direct what happens to his or her body. It is an integral part of ethics and law, where patients have the right to receive information and ask questions. It also involves open communication between healthcare providers and patients, leading to the patient's agreement or authorization for care.

Informed consent is a key element of patient empowerment and safety. It ensures a patient's understanding of the treatment options, risks, benefits, and other options before making a final decision. One of its roles is to help maintain confidentiality, and part of obtaining informed consent involves notifying the patient about what information will be shared with other members of the healthcare team and what will remain confidential.

The Role of Patient Education in Raising Awareness About Medical Standards

Following Patient Bill of Rights - Male doctor using a tablet device to discuss treatment options with his female patient.

Patient education is another critical instrument in the toolkit for achieving high medical standards. It serves as a bridge between healthcare providers and patients—enhancing communication, understanding, and mutual respect. Patient education plays a dual role:

  • It helps patients know more about the standards, why we have them, and how they can protect patients. This includes information about their rights, ethical considerations in the delivery of care, and the importance of informed consent.
  • It raises awareness about the standards that healthcare providers must uphold. This awareness helps patients recognize when these standards are being met and when providers are failing to uphold those standards.

Enhancing Patient Safety with a Patient Bill of Rights

Patient safety is the cornerstone of high-quality healthcare. It involves avoiding mistakes and reducing the chances of mistakes being made through careful planning. Improving patient safety can reduce unnecessary expenses, minimize legal risk, and enhance a healthcare organization's reputation.

The Patient Bill of Rights ensures all patients receive safe care, meaning they should receive treatment in a healthcare environment that minimizes harm and prioritizes their well-being. It also guarantees that patients receive the right information when something goes wrong during their treatment. The Patient Bill of Rights also states that patients have the right to have a family member or doctor notified when they are admitted to the hospital; this ensures there is a support network involved in their care.One example of how patient rights have improved safety is through the implementation and use of safe patient handling programs. These programs can help reduce the risk of injury for both healthcare workers and patients. The aim of these programs is to reduce injuries while improving the quality of patient care at the same time. Another example shows the emphasis placed on patient and family engagement.

Advocacy and Reporting: Strengthening Medical Accountability

When healthcare organizations understand accountability, it will not just increase the level of trust that a patient places in a provider but minimize the number of resources that go unused or misused. Medical accountability is also a key element in improving the management of healthcare organizations, and patient advocacy can help ensure that healthcare providers are held accountable and that the highest standard of care is always provided.

The role of healthcare advocates consists of: 

  • Helping patients access the correct type of care
  • Educating patients so they will feel empowered and confident enough to make well-informed decisions
  • Leading patients through their medical care, insurance-related concerns, and legal and ethical questions

How can a patient find an advocate? Sometimes patients or a loved one hires independent advocates or someone who works for an advocacy organization. In other cases, an employer, healthcare organization, or insurance provider may assist in matching a patient with an advocate. 

Reporting is another piece of the puzzle when it comes to accountability in healthcare. No patients should feel afraid or hesitant to report safety violations or poor quality care. When patients feel at ease reporting these violations and any issues they have, we will not only have a pathway for improvement but foster a nurture of accountability.

Legal and Ethical Aspects of a Patient Bill of Rights

Strong legal and ethical foundations guide the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive Patient Bill of Rights. The legal framework acts as the backbone—providing the necessary support for securing patient rights and defining medical standards. This ensures that patients have access to quality care and have protection from any infringements on their rights. 

The ethical aspect of a Patient Bill of Rights is about respecting a patient's values and understanding them enough to care for them with integrity. To build strong ethical relationships with patients and secure their rights, healthcare providers should make their roles very clear from the start, keep patient data confidential, and be patient with everyone who walks through those doors in need of medical care. 

Despite the advantages of implementing a Patient Bill of Rights, there have to be some challenges, right? In healthcare, nothing comes without a challenge. These may range from the challenges within the healthcare organization to resource constraints, requiring a committed effort from all stakeholders to overcome them.

Addressing Medical Debt and Collection Practices

Female patient discussing preferred type of care with her female doctor.

Anyone who has received a medical bill that they could not pay understands the all-around impact it has. Medical debt is stressful, and it can have a “domino effect” on household debt overall. Patients with limited financial resources are more likely to have minimal or no health insurance. For many patients, determining whether they go to a healthcare organization will involve weighing personal health vs. potentially going into debt—and this should never be the case. Over the years, patients who have faced medical debt and the potential of their debt being handed over to collectors have experienced poor health outcomes and lowered credit scores. Aggressive medical debt collection practices also keep many people from going anywhere near a medical facility. When expectations for fair treatment in terms of medical costs and collections are clearly outlined in a patient bill of rights, it can help mitigate the damaging effects of medical debt and protect patients from aggressive practices by debt collectors.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare organizations of all sizes face challenges when it comes to collecting money owed from patients. To be of better service to patients (while minimizing losses), providers must understand recent changes in collecting and reporting on medical debt.

For patients, learning how the billing and collections system works—including medical debt collection processes and payment plan options— is paramount to successfully making it through the patient experience. With the large number (and growing) of patients who owe medical debts, the need for a thorough and ethical collection process has never been greater.Resolve your collections issues and ensure a smooth operation with the assistance of BillFlash, cloud-based medical billing, payment, and collection software. Schedule a demo today!

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