From the information given by a doctor to the quality of care that must be guaranteed, patients have several rights that are protected by Belgian law, however, many are unaware of what they are.
One if five people in Flanders are not aware of the Patients' Rights Act, which was created 20 years ago, and therefore do not know enough about what rights they have as a patient and whether they are being respected, according to a survey carried out by the Flemish Patients Platform, an umbrella organisation of more than 115 patient associations.
"Even after 20 years, we must continue to invest in making patients' rights known," Flemish Minister for Welfare, Public Health and Family Hilde Crevits said in a statement. "One in five patients does not know the law on patients' rights; this must change."
The right to high-quality service, to information, to seeing your patient file and to complain, among others, are not always sufficiently respected, even though they are included in the law.
The Flemish Patients Platform is now looking to create a number of initiatives to make patients' rights more widely known, for which it will receive a €1.2 million subsidy.
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Among the measures that it will take, the organisation will plead for a completed health summary for every person living in Flanders, will assist care institutions on how to communicate about the cost of certain care, and will also advise them on how to make their systems more participative.
Helping patients with chronic conditions
The organisation stressed that the Patients' Rights Act does not yet go far enough when taking into account people with a chronic condition, which is why it is developing a digital version of the Goal Finder for patients with a chronic condition, an instrument with which patients can map out life goals and then communicate them to their care providers or environment.
"I didn't expect my doctor to show any interest in the life goals I set for myself using the Goal Finder. But nothing was further from the truth. My doctor listened with great attention. After a discussion, we took a drastic decision and adjusted my medication schedule, among other things," one person with a chronic condition said of the platform.
"I am now ill in a different way. The relationship with my children is more intense and I am glad that we do more things together now."