From a legal and ethical standpoint, physicians must keep patients from missing recommended follow-up care. But while it's not realistic for practices to track down every no-show or noncompliant patient, there are strategies that can reduce the likelihood of a patient's dangerous health condition remaining unaddressed, according to a post from the New York Times.
At a minimum, according to author Barron H. Lerner, M.D., professor of medicine and population health at New York University School of Medicine, these practices can help bolster a physician's defense should a lawsuit arise:
- Use physicians' voice wisely. While it's most cost-effective for staff members to make reminder phone calls regarding routine appointments, a call directly from the doctor may increase the odds a patient keeps a critical appointment. "If the visits are for checkups, I do not routinely call the patients, but if there are urgent matters to be discussed, I do," Lerner wrote.
- Get serious about no-shows. Reducing no-shows goes beyond making reminder phone calls, according to a research study at the University of Wisconsin. Researchers found that patients were less likely to miss appointments after the practice took steps to reduce wait times, create a more welcoming environment and improve collaboration with referral sources.
- Bolster documentation. "If a doctor schedules a test or appointment for a patient that is particularly important, he or she should document having emphasized this issue with the patient," wrote Lerner. "While this is not a foolproof method for preventing lawsuits, it helps to clarify the physician's performance and line of thinking about the case."