Is That Your Patient?
Ultimately, a physician-patient relationship and its corresponding duties arise when reasonable people would recognize a duty and agree that it exists. You must analyze your conduct and interactions, including your:
- Communication with patients or nonpatients (including e-mail or conversations in passing);
- On-call status;
- Agreements with facilities, a service, or other providers to accept patients;
- Degree of responsibility for a given patient’s care;
- Charges or fee discussion;
- Affirmative acts of care or treatment as distinguished from examination solely for the benefit of a third party;
- Initiation of contact with the patient or patient’s family;
- Referral from another physician or non-physician; and
- Consultations with other physicians, either formal or informal and whether different areas of expertise are involved or specific care or advise is given.
Ultimate determination of whether a physician-patient relationship exists is fact-specific—and no single fact is definitive. The above factors may guide you in assessing the nature of your interactions with patients and your attendant responsibilities. TH
Patrick O’Rourke works in the Office of University Counsel, Department of Litigation, University of Colorado, Denver.