When accessing the U.S. healthcare system, it is important to remember that you have both rights and responsibilities.
As a patient, you have these rights when accessing medical care:
In most cases you have the right to agree or disagree with any treatment suggested to you. For example, if your doctor suggests a medication, and you are hesitant to take it due to the listed side effects, it is your right to voice your concerns, and ask if there are alternative medications or methods to treat your issue. You have the final decision in your own healthcare.
Right of Access to Your Medical Information
You have the right of access to your private medical information. No one else can access that information without your permission, including family members or even doctors other than your own. With a few exceptions, your information remains confidential until you give your permission to share it.
Right to Interpretation
As a patient you have the right to interpretation in your preferred language at no cost from any health organization that receives federal funding (for example, any health organization that receives Medicaid funding). Be aware, however, that this right can be hard to enforce, and depends on the specific medical setting and even the provider.
Right to Respect of Your Healthcare Traditions and to Choose a New Doctor
The U.S. healthcare system is large and contains medical practitioners from all backgrounds. Some may not be familiar with your traditions. If you feel like your doctor is not respectful of who you are, where you come from or your beliefs, you can choose a new doctor who accepts your health insurance.
Along with the rights you have as a patient in the U.S. healthcare system, you also have responsibilities:
Keeping Appointments and Arriving on Time
Medical providers are very busy. Being on time ensures that healthcare staff can keep to their schedule and that other patients’ appointments are not impacted. Most providers charge fees if you are late or miss your scheduled appointment. If you know you will not be able to go to your appointment, or if you are running late, call your doctor’s office as soon as possible.
Honesty and Openness
Your doctor’s care depends on how honest and open you are with them. The reason doctors ask questions about your health history, especially during first visits, is to be able to establish patterns, write down important information, and then give a diagnosis based on a combination of their expertise and the information you provide. Honesty with your doctor ensures you get the best possible care.
While you are within your rights to raise concerns with your doctor about their instructions, if you are comfortable with your doctor’s instructions then it is your responsibility to follow them. Not following instructions can result in a longer process to fixing your health issues.