Magazine article Medical Economics

Q & A: Practice Management

Magazine article Medical Economics

Q & A: Practice Management

Article excerpt

Can you refuse to transfer patient records?

If a patient we're dismissing from our practice has an outstanding balance, can we withhold his records until the account is settled?

No, it's unethical to refuse to respond prompdy to a valid request for a records transfer. You're within your rights to dismiss him, but you can't get in the way of his obtaining the care he needs. Moreover, if the padent comes to harm because of your delay, you could be held liable.

Upon receipt of the patient's written authorization, you must make his records available to whatever physician he designates. Most states allow you to charge for copying and mailing the records - but, unfortunately, it's unlikely you'll ever see that money.

A legal time bomb

I've heard stories about physicians being falsely accused of sexual improprieties by patients. I practice alone with no clinical or clerical assistants who can act as a chaperone when I examine a female patient. How can I protect myself? You can't. There's simply no good way to protect yourself from false accusations as long as you're alone with a patient. Any time a patient must disrobe could be problematic. Even listening to heart sounds could be misconstrued.

You have to change your practice setting so you're working with other doctors or hire a low-cost assistant who can be present when you see patients. And if theres only one staffer around, keep the exam room door partially open at all times, but make sure that other patients or visitors won't be able to peek in or hear the conversation. …

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