Q&A: Taking back a difficult patient

September 5, 2008

Recently, a difficult patient said she was switching doctors and asked us to transfer her records to another practice, which we did. Then she changed her mind and called us for another appointment. Could we have turned her away? And how can we avoid this situation next time?

Q: Recently, a difficult patient said she was switching doctors and asked us to transfer her records to another practice, which we did. Then she changed her mind and called us for another appointment. Could we have turned her away? And how can we avoid this situation next time?

A: You were wise to see her, especially if the situation was an emergency. Otherwise, you could have opened the door for an abandonment claim. But next time a troublesome patient decides to leave your practice, follow up with an official termination letter. Remind the patient that she said she wanted to find a new doctor and you agree that would be best for her. If she hasn't already asked you to transfer her records, offer to do so upon her written request. You'll need to give her 30 days to find a new physician, but after that you'll no longer be obligated to see her.