Non-compliant Patients: How to Reduce Your Liability

Woman Having a MamogramEven under ideal circumstances –with a correct diagnosis, an error-free treatment, a compliant patient, etc –a physician can still be sued and have to use their liability coverage. But what happens when a physician has a non-compliant patient and care does not go according to plan? What can a physician do to reduce his or her liability? The answer is preemptive: good documentation and note-taking in the medical record.

I recently came across an article on, entitled, “A patient ignores a suspicious breast lump,” that gave a nice case discussion and commented on how physicians can reduce their liability when it comes to non-compliant patients. (In a nutshell, a patient did not return for follow-up regarding a suspicious breast lump.)

In this case study, the key was meticulous documentation by the health care professional, Ms. F. Specifically, Ms. F recorded in her notes that she told the patient to follow up in three months. She also recorded in the record that she explained to the patient the significance of her family history regarding breast cancer and the lump that was found. And, finally, she recorded that she also told the patient the importance of self-monitoring her breasts for any additional changes.

Lastly, despite the health care professional having meticulous notes, the article nicely reminded us of the need for quality coverage. First, the case was thrown out thanks to the liability insurance attorney’s motion for a summary judgement –resolving the case quickly, saving everyone time, money and stress. Second, the author noted that even though the case was thrown out, there were significant legal costs, and thanks to Ms. F’s quality liability coverage, she was not responsible for any of her legal fees. So, thanks to good note-taking and good coverage, the case was efficiently resolved.

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