Access to Information for Patients is Key

Written by: Sam Jones

When was the last time you had to relog into an account you thought you had saved the password for? It could be Netflix, Hulu, YouTubeTV, or the dreaded Apple ID. The frustration begins to build when you can’t log in. You try multiple passwords, but they all seem to fail. You think, “I pay for this, probably too much, so I have the right to have access to this!” Eventually, your 13th try is a no go, so you give in and click “Forgot Password” to set up a new one. All of this can seem like a burdensome step when you have the right to access the information, movies, shows, and music that lie behind the credentialed wall.

When those we care for have a difficult time accessing their  information or simply understanding their care, it can be incredibly frustrating. Not only is it frustrating, but it is also against the law to restrict access  or to lack the accessibility for those who may need specific assistance. A recent case out of Florida provides an example of the importance of patient and companion access.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reached a resolution agreement with MCR Health, Inc. to address a disability discrimination complaint. The complaint was based on violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complainant, who is deaf and hard of hearing, alleged  MCR Health failed to provide auxiliary aids and services when she requested an interpreter during her husband’s post-surgical medical appointment.

“Ensuring patient safety is at the heart of providing care in a quality and ethical manner. It should not take a federal investigation for a healthcare provider to provide an interpreter so that a patient’s caregiver can understand important information, such as a post-treatment plan,” said OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer.

Under the agreement, MCR Health agreed to ensure effective communication with individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. This includes providing appropriate auxiliary aids and services, revising policies and procedures, giving priority to requests from patients or companions with hearing disabilities, documenting assessments for auxiliary aids, maintaining an aid and service denial log, and training staff on effective communication with patients and companions who have disabilities.

The resolution agreement highlights OCR’s commitment to enforcing federal civil rights laws and removing barriers to equal treatment for individuals with disabilities in healthcare settings.

In your organization are there  barriers for the people you serve, and their companions, that make it difficult for them to be able to access or understand the information they need to comprehend? What simple changes would enhance the patient’s accessibility to their care information? The stakes are different when it is just your streaming platform password;  access to the healthcare information to which you are entitled to is important. Every provider is encouraged to take a look at the organization to see where there may be barriers restricting access.

Most business leaders get frustrated when employees don’t do the right thing.  You shouldn’t have to convince people to do what is right.  MCA builds a compliance program and a culture where employees do the right thing, the right way, at the right time so you can focus on taking care of the people you serve.

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Midwest Compliance Associates

(319) 553-0258