The failure to properly handle and document after-hours telephone calls can adversely affect patient care and lead to potential liability exposure for the healthcare provider. Patient communication that is not documented may increase a healthcare providers liability exposure.
It is recommended that:
1. A system should be established in order to ensure that all after-hours calls are responded to in a reasonable time frame and are documented in the patient’s medical record.
2. Medical record documentation of after-hours calls should include the following:
• Patient’s name;
• Name of the caller, if different than the patient, and the individual’s relationship to the patient;
• Date and time of the call;
• Reason or nature of the call, including a description of the patient’s symptoms or complaint; and
• Medical advice or information that was provided, including any medications that were prescribed.
3. If the patient’s condition necessitates the need for a prescription, it is important to inquire about and document any medication allergies, as well any other medications the patient is currently taking.
4. If a healthcare provider utilizes an answering service, the service should be periodically evaluated for courtesy, efficiency, accuracy, and proper recordkeeping.
5. The use of answering machines or voicemail systems for after-hours calls is not generally recommended.
6. When after-hours coverage is provided by another healthcare provider’s practice, a process should be in place to ensure that documented telephone conversations are promptly forwarded to your office.
Every healthcare provider should have a policy and procedures in place in order to manage and document all after-hours telephone calls from patients.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq.
Stuart J. Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 30 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.
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