When should a doctor “fire” a patient?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2024 | Professional License Issues |

The relationship between doctor and patient is sacrosanct,  and it requires a high level of commitment and trust on both sides.

While it’s never pleasant to tell a patient that you will no longer be their physician, protecting your practice and yourself from unnecessary professional liability is important. 

9 reasons to end a relationship with a patient 

Here are some common examples of when a patient relationship should probably end:

  1. Non-compliance: If a patient consistently refuses to follow agreed-upon treatment plans or medical advice, putting their health at risk
  2. Disrespectful behavior: Patients who display abusive or threatening behavior towards you, your staff or your other patients
  3. Failure to pay: The patient exhibits a continual failure to pay for services rendered, despite reasonable attempts to address the issue 
  4. Doctor-patient relationship breakdown: If there’s a breakdown in communication or trust between you and your patient, making effective treatment challenging (or impossible)
  5. Drug-seeking behavior or prescription abuses: Patients who engage in drug-seeking behavior or misuse controlled substances, putting their health and your license at risk
  6. Boundary violations: Patients who engage in inappropriate or unethical behavior, such as making romantic advances toward you or your staff
  7. Repeated missed appointments: Chronic failure to keep scheduled appointments without adequate explanation or effort to reschedule, which is another form of non-compliance
  8. Conflict of interest: In situations where you recognize a significant conflict of interest that compromises your ability to provide impartial care
  9. Incompatibility with practice policies: Patients who repeatedly violate practice policies or procedures, despite warnings should also be dismissed

Every doctor has difficult patients – and they deserve quality care just like the patients who are pleasant and more compliant. However, there are times when the patient-provider relationship is simply unsustainable. It may be wise to seek legal guidance about the steps to take and notices you give so that you aren’t accused of patient abandonment.