Ending the Doctor / Patient Relationship

Whether you are a  general practitioner with GP medical indemnity insurance or a medical professional with medical professional indemnity insurance, ending a relationship with a patient can be difficult. Especially in situations when there has been a breakdown in your communication with your patient.

The reasons for the breakup

There can be a myriad of reasons why you may choose to end the relationship, from simply thinking your patient should see another doctor, to a loss of mutual trust. Other common reasons are-  boundary violations, consistent failure by the patient to attend appointments, and/or non compliance with treatment recommendations.

The Medical Code of Conduct

The Medical Board’s Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia specifically discusses the obligations a doctor has to a patient when ending a professional relationship. Section 3.13 states:

“In some circumstances, the relationship between a doctor and patient may become ineffective or compromised, and you may need to end it. Good medical practice involves ensuring that the patient is adequately informed of your decision and facilitating arrangements for the continuing care of the patient, including passing on relevant clinical information.”

Tego Insurance’s doctors indemnity insurance experts recommend a few steps in the event that you decide to end a therapeutic relationship with a patient:

  1. Document a patient’s non-compliance.
  2. Good communication is vital. Do not delegate to staff.
  3. Write a letter to the patient, that is informative and non-accusatory
  4. Be careful about referring.  
  5. Consider informing other parties.

Any letter to a patient should be courteous and short and sent to your patient as well as a copy of the letter should be kept in the patient’s file. It is important to keep all correspondence with a

patient in their file, from texts, emails to legal document and diagnoses.

Medical Indemnity Insurance Australia

Tego to the rescue

The expert team at Tego Indemnity Insurance are at the ready to help you protect yourself and your practice when you are ending a patient’s care. With the rules and regulations changing, it is essential that you understand what you should do when terminating a patient.

Tego Insurance offers medical indemnity insurance for medical practitioners. We have a profound understanding of the Australian medical profession and the ever-changing healthcare industry. It’s this expertise that allows us to provide leading cover with more choice, innovation and greater flexibility. Contact us to find out more.

This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss su­ffered in connection with the use of this information.