Medical Intake Forms – What did I just Sign?

The doctor’s office can be intimidating for just about anybody. Needles, scalpels, drills … but the most intimidating aspect could be all the paperwork. Medical intake forms are heavy on details, but we know most people don’t read through the documents and instead just fill them in and move on. Even those who do read them often find them hard to understand. So, what’s in there and what should you look out for? We’re going to explore this so you can be better informed the next time you head to an appointment.

Are they required?

When it comes to the law, there are no requirements for intake forms as a prerequisite for treatment. This would be impossible as sometimes emergency treatment is necessary and an incapacitated patient has no ability to read, understand, and sign paperwork. Medical proxies are also not always immediately available when emergency treatment is necessary.

However, some offices may require you to sign certain forms before treatment can take place for either you or someone for whom you are serving as a medical proxy. Medical facilities do this for a number of reasons, including ensuring accurate patient information and protecting themselves from liability should a patient lie or a treatment go wrong.

What rights are being transferred or given up?

These forms can be complicated and packed with legal and medical information even the most sophisticated patients do not understand. Some offices will differ on the information they require of you at the time of treatment, but forms could include attempts to have the patient waive treatment, privacy, arbitration, and other rights.

Medical professionals are trained to best understand what treatment options are best for your situation. This means some medical forms may detail not only the treatment you’re to receive on the day of your visit but also treatment and rehabilitation options down the road. If you want more freedom to choose what treatment you receive down the road, you should avoid signing any treatment plan documents and speak directly with your doctor about your desire to keep your options open. However, we want you to get the best treatment possible so be sure to listen to trained medical professionals.

HIPAA laws protect your privacy, but some of those rights can be waived if you willingly sign off on the sharing of your information. Some healthcare providers may need to share your medical records with another office they plan to refer you to for surgeries or treatments, but sometimes medical forms involve blanket waivers of these rights.

In the case of King v. Bryant, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld the decision that medical offices cannot enforce arbitration agreements signed at the time of service unless the offices made a clear and concerted effort to clarify what those arbitration rights were at the time. So, even when forms are signed, there may be legal recourse if the medical team did not make an effort to make clear what you were signing.

So What Do I Do?

It’s not practical to try to negotiate the terms of medical intake forms while you’re in the doctor’s office waiting room or even worse – the emergency room. If you try to bring your attorney with you to the doctor’s office, you might not be allowed to come back. If you have concerns about the medical forms you signed, request a copy of all the forms and contact an expert to help you review them.
At CLARK.LAW, we have HIPAA-certified attorneys on staff. We can help individuals, medical offices, and healthcare providers get the most out of medical intake forms by reviewing what’s in them and making sure drafts are updated. Contact us today to avoid any costly mistakes.

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