HR Insights with Ali: Ending Your Professional Relationship with a Patient
Posted on 9/13/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
Medical and dental professionals have to deal with a number of variables when running their businesses. For example, on-boarding and terminating your staff, although difficult, is part of running a business. However, what happens when the person you need to “fire” is a patient? This situation can arise from a number of circumstances, such as changing the services your practice provides. In this case, you can usually simply send your client a letter letting him/her know of the change and making some suggestions for providers who can take over that patient’s treatment. The more difficult issues stem from a patient “termination” as a result of incident(s) unrelated to treatment.
Difficult situations arise when a patient violates your Practice’s acceptable behavior. For example, a patient makes suggestive comments to your employees, or uses discriminatory or offensive language during his or her visits to your office. While maintaining a strong relationship with your patients is imperative, your team members—or anyone for that matter—should never endure harassment, discrimination, or any other offenses that violate the integrity of the Practice. Even worse, if you are aware—either by way of complaint or observation—of a patient who is turning your Practice into a hostile environment, and you do nothing to address the problem, you could face additional issues (and even potential legal problems) if your employee(s) resign as a result of this unhealthy environment.
If a patient’s behavior has crossed the line and qualifies as offensive, then you should act immediately. The conversation should be professional, clear, and concise in addressing the issue. Kindly suggest that your patient be mindful of the ways that his/her words and actions can affect others. As always, this should be documented in writing following the incident. If your patient’s actions and/or behaviors do not improve, then terminating your relationship with this patient is inevitable. Again, this should be done in a respectful letter explicitly outlining that you will no longer be providing service, but are more than happy to provide referrals to other practitioners. If the incident/problem gets to a point where legal allegations or injury was incurred (both physical or verbal), you must contact your malpractice provider and/or attorney to ensure they are aware of the situation. While you and your staff are in a field that necessitates service to your patients, doing so should never compromise the integrity of you Practice.