Cancer is an expensive illness involving information and medical terms you never thought you needed to learn. Anyone living with cancer and receiving treatment has certain rights. The Patients’ Bill of Rights and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guarantee medical care and protect individuals’ medical record.

Patient Rights

Under a federal law, you have the following rights:

  • You are guaranteed access to your medical records
  • You will be notified of your privacy rights
  • Your doctor, treatment team and insurance provider cannot disclose your medical information to anyone without your written permission, except medical staff within the hospital
  • Your health information cannot be used for marketing or advertising purposes
  • You may file a formal complaint if these rights have been violated
  • You have permission to ask questions to ensure that your medical information is being protected
  • The right to request changes and additions to your medical records

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA gives you the right to control who may receive your medical records and which information they may receive.

When you visit a health care professional or are admitted to a hospital for the first time, you will receive HIPAA forms. Signing these forms states that you know your rights with regard to control over your medical information.

Protecting Your Privacy and Confidentiality

Being in control of your health care information is very important. Your rights and privacy are protected by law. As a patient, you will be asked to share your medical information with your trusted doctor and health care team. Your medical information is protected by law and can only be shared with your permission. Knowing this will allow you to answer your doctor’s questions more honestly and fully, which will improve the care you receive. You can also authorize a loved one or friend to have access.

Your personal medical information consists of:

  • Your full legal name
  • Your address
  • Your phone number
  • Your actual medical record
  • The medical history of family members

Patient Responsibilities

To get the best medical care, you should:

  • Provide information about past illnesses, hospitalizations, medications and other health-related information
  • Request simpler information from the health care staff if you do not understand the explanations or instructions
  • Inform your doctor and caregiver if you expect problems following a prescribed treatment
  • Provide information about your insurance coverage
  • Discuss a payment plan with hospital staff
  • Make sure the hospital has a copy of your advance directives (see the “Advance Care Planning” fact sheet for more information)
  • Know that patients are asked to make reasonable compromises to the needs of the hospital, other patients or hospital staff

What to Expect During a Hospital Stay

People are concerned when they have to go into the hospital. It helps you cope if you are aware of what you are guaranteed by law:

  • Considerate, respectful hospital care
  • A clean, safe environment
  • A non-smoking room
  • Medical treatment without discrimination
  • Emergency care, if you need it
  • Names, positions and functions of all hospital staff involved in your care
  • The right to refuse participation in research
  • Priority visitation rights for your family members and other adults