Part 2: Basic Patient Rights (FAQ 25 of 65)
Right to Request Confidential Communications
25. What is the Right to Receive a Confidential Communication?
You have the right to ask a health care provider to communicate with you by alternative means or at alternative locations. This means, for example, that you can ask your fertility clinic not to call you at work or to send you an email notification of an appointment. You could also ask your psychiatrist not to leave a message about an appointment at your home telephone answering machine. You might also ask your provider not to send you a post card reminder of your appointment but to use a closed envelope. A provider must accommodate reasonable requests. We think that all of the examples in this paragraph are generally reasonable. We also think that that asking for written communications -- including bills -- to be in plain envelopes with no identification of the provider in the return address is also reasonable.
The right to receive a confidential communication is a real right that may be important to you. Not everyone will care or will care all the time. You may not object to a postcard from your dentist reminding you to make an appointment to have your teeth cleaned. Many people would object to receiving a postcard informing them about a follow-up visit to a sexually-transmitted disease clinic.
The right to receive a confidential communication is important because a provider doesn't need express permission to contact a patient at home or to leave a message on an answering machine. For a patient who doesn't want others in his or her family or household to know about a form of treatment, then exercising the right to receive a confidential communication will be crucial. For some, this right may provide a vital privacy protection that will make the greatest difference to your life or wellbeing.