While some patients have medical conditions a physician can remedy after only one office visit, many others require ongoing treatment. Timely follow-up with patients is vital for ensuring they're moving forward with the prescribed treatment plan, such as undergoing testing and taking their medications. In addition to increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome, a medical follow-up is critical for minimizing safety and liability concerns.
The Dangers of Failing to Take a Proactive Approach to the Follow-Up of Patients
So, what could happen in instances of inadequate follow-up? Suppose a patient comes to you with symptoms you suspect to be cancer. You send her for testing, but your office doesn't check to see if she kept the appointment. If it turns out that the patient doesn't get the test and the disease progresses, not only is her health in jeopardy, but you could also be the target of malpractice litigation.
Medical Follow-Up Best Practices
Implementing these steps in your practice can ensure timely, efficient patient-follow-up:
- Create a verifiable notification system where your office attempts to contact the patient the day before the appointment as a reminder.
- Develop a procedure to check on test results and missed appointments that includes a combination of phone calls, letters, emails and text messages.
- Establish an open communication channel with all specialists to whom you refer your patients for follow-up examinations.
- Develop a system for ensuring you receive all findings from specialists to whom you refer your patients, as well as that the results are communicated to the patients.
- Use your EHR system to track tests and follow up if you haven't received the test results by the specified date.
- Document all medical advice given to patients in their file and indicate your perception of their level of understanding.
- Conduct a routine follow-up phone call within a predetermined time frame after each visit to see if the patient has any questions or concerns regarding the treatment protocol, testing, prescribed medications or anything else.
- Train your office staff to refer questions beyond the scope of their job function to a licensed medical professional.
- Develop an email newsletter you can send to all patients that contains general medical information and advice, as well as answers to frequently asked questions regarding your specialty — if applicable.
- Contact new patients after their first visit to determine if they are satisfied with their treatment and level of service. Consider sending them a patient satisfaction survey.
Review Your Liability Coverage
Even if you implement stringent patient follow-up procedures, it's still possible a patient could "slip through the cracks," which can create significant liability exposure. Without adequate medical malpractice insurance coverage, you are vulnerable to a lawsuit that could have devasting consequences for your career.
As the largest medical malpractice insurance broker in the United States, you can trust Gallagher Healthcare to provide coverage that will protect you against lawsuits and give you peace of mind. Contact us for more information and a no-obligation quote today.