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When Patients Approach Physicians Outside of the Office


Whether it is employees at the hospital where I round or people at the mall, patients constantly approach me with care-based questions outside of the office.

What do you do when you are "curb-sided" by a patient?

I have several patients who are employees at the hospital where I do rounds. They will sometimes stop me in the hall to ask me questions. Now, I generally don’t mind, and will usually stop and talk to them, but I often forget to make a note in their chart when I get back to the office. Usually it is small stuff: “Can I take cold medicine with the meds I’m on?” or “Is it ok to take a multivitamin?”or “I think I’m supposed to make an appointment soon,” stuff like that, but sometimes it’s about new medical problems.

If they need me to do something for them, like call in a prescription or send a letter somewhere, I tell them they have to call the office, because quite honestly, by the time I get back there I will have forgotten what they needed.

I also live, shop, and worship in the same town in which I practice, which means that I run into patients at church, at the supermarket, and even in the dressing room at the mall. And when they try to talk to me there, I try to make the conversation as brief as possible. I tell them that for their own privacy, it would be better to discuss this during business hours.

Privacy is part of my hesitancy to conduct patient visits at the food court, but I have other reasons, too. Apart from needing “non-doctor, I’m just a mom” time, I’d like to avoid these encounters for patient safety reasons, too. While they all think that I remember all the details of their history, I don’t. I don’t recall their allergies, what their last labs looked like, and what meds their currently on. So I don’t want to make a call about new medications on the fly. That seems to be fraught with liability. I have yet to be approached about a true emergency, so I will generally give them some brief generic advice, tell them to call the office during the next business day, at which point I can go over their history and give them a more detailed answer.

I haven’t had anyone complain about it yet. I am hoping I can continue to defer these conversations. I really don’t want to move to a different town.

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