The article discusses the concept of patient abandonment, defined as the unilateral severance of the physician-patient relationship by the physician, without giving the patient sufficient advance notice to obtain the services of another practitioner. Patient abandonment can result in significant liability, fines, and/or restrictions or loss of the physician’s professional license.
To help protect the physician from liability and accusations of patient abandonment, the article recommends several strategies: provide written notice, clearly stating a termination date; include a list of suitable alternative providers; and time the termination appropriately, not at a time when the patient is in medical crisis. In addition, physicians should examine managed care contracts and communicate with health plans to check specifications concerning termination of the physician-patient relationship. Physicians should provide access to medical records for the new doctor. Finally, they need to inform everyone else in their practice of the termination to avoid inadvertent reestablishment of the physician-patient relationship.
“The treating physician should always be the one who makes the determination to terminate the physician-patient relationship rather than another staff member,” according to the article. “By remaining personally involved, the physician can ensure that all of the above concerns are addressed appropriately.”
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