The Patient's Role and Responsibilities
Health care is a team effort, and it is not a passive activity. The patient is the primary team member and is expected to be an active participant. For the most part, the patient should be the captain of the team. But patients come in all ages, and some are not old enough to make decisions for their care, while others are too old, ill, or otherwise impaired to make decisions for themselves.
Many institutions have adopted patient rules and responsibilities that are given to the patients at their first visit or upon admission to a facility. Usually a signed copy must be entered into the medical record acknowledging the patient's awareness of and promise to adhere to the rules. These rules are designed to help reduce the possibility of errors due to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and improper identification.
They also help to protect providers from being expected to shoulder the entire responsibility for the health status of a patient, and/or from being considered to be infallible. They also help to reduce the high costs of health care by encouraging and enacting preventative measures. The patient's responsibilities include:
Providing health care workers with accurate and complete information about current symptoms and complaints; current medications and treatments; allergies; and past medical history, including illness, injury, and treatments
Keeping all appointments and notifying providers in advance if this is not possible
Notifying providers of any significant change in condition or reaction to treatment or diagnostics
Actively participating in all decisions about treatments and asking questions if there is any confusion — and continuing to ask questions if they still don't understand
Complying with prescribed treatments and lifestyle changes or discussing options or alternatives with the providers, and asking questions or asking for help if they don't understand how to perform or comply
Never assuming that the health care provider is infallible, and correcting or reminding the health care provider of issues such as allergies or previously successful or failed treatments; to question anything that doesn't seem right
With the trend moving more toward preventative medicine and promoting wellness, there has been a shift of responsibility for health status and treatment outcomes to the patients and their caregivers.
Patients cannot expect the physician or other health care practitioner to heal them or to fix the problem alone. Health care is a team experience, and all members have essential roles to fill and responsibilities to honor.