When a Patient's Family Member Intervenes

March 12, 2014

How should physicians handle it when a patient's family member is a problem?

Most of you have dealt with problem patients, but what about problem family members?

In a recent Practice Notes blog, endocrinologist Melissa Young wrote about difficult situations that have arisen at her practice due to problems between patients' family members and the practice.

"There are some patients that I dread seeing because I’m afraid they will come with their spouse or adult child with whom we have had bad experiences," Young wrote, noting that some of these individuals have been verbally abusive to staff. "It’s not the patient's fault, and I don’t want to dismiss them because their relative is a jerk, and I don’t think I could legally do so."

One reader from a pediatric commented that she also experiences difficulties with patients' family members. A common problem: One parent brings a child in for a visit and the parent fails to inform the other parent about what was discussed during the visit, or the parent who attended the visit gives inaccurate information to the other patient about what occurred during the visit. As a result, the parent who did not attend the visit calls and complains. 

How often do you deal with difficult family members in your practice? How do you handle these situations? How should the approach differ if the difficult family member is the parent of a pediatric patient?  

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Your answer could help another physician dealing with these issues.