Discontinuing a Patient from Your Practice

Linda Mangels

Guest post by Linda Sue Mangels, BSED, MSED, CPHRM, senior risk management/patient safety specialist, the Cooperative of American Physicians.

Doctors often get into the field of medicine because they love helping people (their patients). However, from time-to-time, a patient’s behaviors and actions may require the physician to sever ties. Non-compliance with the treatment plan, rude, abusive behavior, repeatedly not showing up for appointments, drug-seeking behavior and non-payment of services rendered are all reasons physicians terminate their patient relationships. A good relationship/partnership between the physician and patient is essential for optimal treatment outcomes.

If, for whatever reason, it is not possible to establish this partnership, it is best for the patient to seek treatment elsewhere.

However, a physician can’t simply stop providing care to a patient. In fact, once the physician-patient relationship is established, the physician must continue to provide care to the patient to avoid allegations of abandonment until one of the follow occurs:

1)    The patient terminates the physician-patient relationship.

2)    The patient’s condition no longer requires the care of this particular physician.

3)    The physician agreed to treat only a specific condition or agreed to treat only at a specific time or place.

4)    The physician terminates the physician-patient relationship by notifying the patient in writing of withdrawal from care after a specific time which is stated in the letter. The patient is also given information necessary to obtain their medical records or transfer to another provider.

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