HCFA Announces New Protections of Hospitalized Patients' Rights

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The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) recently announced new patient protections in standards to protect the health and welfare of hospitalized patients.

The patients' rights regulations will strengthen existing protections for patient health and safety and will help assure that high-quality care is provided to all patients in hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Among the six basic patient rights specified in the regulations are the right to confidentiality of patient records and communications, and the freedom from the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion.

The patients' rights protections are part of Medicare's revised Conditions of Participation requirements that hospitals must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The interim final regulations were published in the Federal Register.

HCFA carved out the patients' rights section from the larger proposed revision of the hospital Conditions of Participation regulation, published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on December 17, 1997, so that the patient protections could be expanded as soon as possible.

"By carving out this section, HCFA will be able to move more quickly to hold all hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid accountable for protecting patients' rights, and for the inappropriate use of restraints and seclusion. These protections underscore the Administration's determination to ensure basic protections for patient health and safety in hospitals, as well as our commitment to patients' rights," said HCFA Administrator Nancy-Ann DeParle.

The new patients' rights protections build on HCFA's improved enforcement of quality of care in hospitals, DeParle said. The proposed patients' rights protections will apply to all participating hospitals, including acute, psychiatric, rehabilitation, long-term, children's, and alcohol-drug hospitals. …