When patient discharges are necessary, here are some considerations on how to release patients with compassion and care.
I recently received an inquiry from a physician whose practice administrator had discharged three patients for failure to meet their financial responsibilities. The physician inquired as to whether or not it should be his signature on the letters to the patients and what other issues he might need to be familiar with when a patient is discharged.
I have addressed the discharge of patients from medical practices several times in my blogs over the years. There are generally several reasons why a patient might be discharged from a practice, such as creating disruption in the practice, repeated failure to show up for appointments, failure to follow treatment instructions, and even drug-seeking activities. Of course, one of the most common reasons a patient is discharged from a practice is for failure or inability to meet financial obligations.
In providing the following guidance, I assume that: (a) every appropriate effort has been made to address the patient’s ability to meet his or her obligations and to remain in the practice, and (b) discharging the patient from the practice will not violate any payor contracts. Generally, I recommend the following steps be taken when discharging patients:
Sometimes discharging a patient from a medical practice for financial reasons is necessary, whether a physician agrees or not. Following the proper steps will protect both the physician and the practice and hopefully provided needed time for the patient to find alternative care.
Ericka L. Adler is a partner at the firm Roetzel & Andress. Her primary practice focus is in the areas of regulatory and transactional healthcare law.