Continuity of Care and the Patient's Bill of Rights

According to the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA), "Patient care and workers suffer because of the private equity business model."

These two phrases are vital for anyone who is spending time in the hospital, visiting a primary care doctor, or who is concerned with the long-term consequences of short-term care decisions. Consider them, share them, memorize them, and perhaps use them in your everyday interactions with health care providers.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) explains that "continuity of care is concerned with quality of care over time. It is the process by which the patient and his/her physician-led care team are cooperatively involved in ongoing health care management toward the shared goal of high quality, cost-effective medical care…. Continuity of care is rooted in a long-term patient-physician partnership in which the physician knows the patient's history from experience and can integrate new information and decisions from a whole-person perspective efficiently without extensive investigation or record review. Continuity of care is facilitated by a physician-led, team-based approach to health care. It reduces fragmentation of care and thus improves patient safety and quality of care." The AAFP is "one of the largest national medical organizations, with nearly 131,400 family physician members in 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam, as well as internationally."

The Patient's Bill of Rights is actually about two related health care issues. First, patient's rights when in the hospital; and second, the rights given under the Affordable Health Care Act, particularly with regards to access to coverage. The hospital patient's bill of 15 rights was first adopted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in 1973, with revisions made in 1992.

From the introduction to the AHA Patient's Bill of Rights: "As the setting for the provision of health services, hospitals must provide a foundation for understanding and respecting the rights and responsibilities of patients, their families, physicians, and other caregivers. Hospitals must ensure a health care ethic that respects the role of patients in decision-making about treatment choices and other aspects of their care. Hospitals must be sensitive to cultural, racial, linguistic, religious, age, gender, and other differences as well as the needs of persons with disabilities."

As the American Patient's Rights Association (APRA) points out, "Americans have few legal patient rights." Continuity of care and a Patient's Bill of Rights can provide an informed refusal when disagreeing or questioning the health care one is receiving, or advocating for fair access to treatment and care.

These now-memorized phrases can be reworded as questions: How does this diagnosis impact the continuity of care? Or, if you have a new doctor: "Doctor, can you communicate with my previous physician or specialist to maintain continuity of care?" If you are leaving the hospital, consider telling your doctor that your most important goal is to maintain continuity of care.

If you are staying at the hospital and you have a question that you need answered, and you do not feel heard, you can always ask for a copy of the Patient's Bill of Rights. Click here for a list of the Patient's Bill of 15 Rights.

Self-advocacy and/or advocacy from family members can help health care professionals do their jobs even better. Professionals who are overworked and underpaid —a characterization of much of the capitalist health care system, particularly as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also because of the impact that investment banking firms have had on health care. According to the Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) , "Patient care and workers suffer because of the private equity business model." Click here for a full report on the impact of profit based cultures and logics on public health, "Private Equity in Healthcare: Profits before Patients and Workers."