Patients should be smart health care consumers too, say experts
(NC)-When homeowners seek multiple quotes for their new roof, drivers ask car dealers to explain all the options, or customers get the salesperson in a computer store to answer questions in clear language, they're all just being smart consumers. So why do patients sometimes feel that they don't have the same rights?
"The word 'patient' tends to make you forget that you're a consumer too," says Mel Fruitman, Vice-President of the Consumers' Association of Canada.
True, there are key differences between health care consumers and consumers of other goods and services. For one, the relationship between patient and provider is far more personal. Patients tend to place much more trust in their health care provider, notes Fruitman. And some basic consumer expectations don't hold true in a health care setting; first come, first served goes out the window in a hospital emergency room.
"Yet when it comes to dealing with any care provider, you do have certain rights," says Catherine Yarrow, President of the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario (FHRCO).
That includes being aware of your rights to, among others:
Do Canadian health care consumers understand and exercise their rights? Not as well as we should - at least according to a 2008 study called the Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index. Conducted by think tanks in Canada and Europe, the study placed us 23rd out of 30 countries when it comes to the "consumer friendliness" of our health care.
Several factors contribute to that ranking, from medical outcomes (where Canada did okay) to timely treatment (not as high marks). In one area - patient rights and providing health care consumers with information - Canada lagged far behind most of Europe.
So when it comes to your own health, always be an informed consumer. "It helps to ensure the best possible care, and protects your health and interests," says Yarrow.
We Care About Your Care. FHRCO comprises Ontario's 21 health regulatory colleges, which govern more than 240,000 health professionals. The colleges support these professionals in providing the people of Ontario with safe, competent and ethical health care; and hold them accountable for their conduct and practice. For more on how the health regulatory colleges protect you, contact the FHRCO at 416-493-4076 or visit our website at www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca.