PROTECTING NATUROPATHIC PHYSICIANS

Family, Friends and Employees as Patients

Treating friends, employees and family

posted by Mike Whitmer on Monday, October 17, 2016

It is common for Naturopathic Physicians to treat their family members, friends and staff from time to time. Good intentions motivate these actions, but difficulties may arise. Consider the following:

Issues with Family Members and Friends

  • An ND treating a family member/friend may find it difficult to maintain professional objectivity and clear clinical judgment.
  • The personal relationship may make it challenging to obtain a good history and perform a complete exam (e.g., asking sensitive questions about sexual topics, domestic abuse or drug/alcohol use). This can produce a doctor/patient encounter that does not meet the standard of care.
  • Past clinical records, medication lists, and other information may not be available or reviewed. Proper documentation of a clinical encounter between a doctor and a family member/friend is rarely present.
  • NDs may attempt to render care outside of the naturopathic standard of care in their quest to help.
  • Due to the personal relationship, a relative/friend may be reluctant to question the doctor’s recommendations or ask for another opinion.

Issues with Employees

  • Employees may be hesitant to share sensitive information, be reluctant to question the ND’s treatment recommendations or ask for another practitioner’s opinion.
  • If an ND decides NOT to document sensitive information to protect it from being discovered by other employees, the note would be incomplete.
  • Hasty hallway consultations could establish a doctor/patient relationship that may not meet the acceptable standard of care.
  • Employees should not receive special treatment. They should be seen during regular office hours when they are off-duty and be afforded the same HIPAA protection as the practice’s general population.
  • Be careful about providing care for on-the-job injuries. Should the employee file a workers’ compensation insurance claim, the ND’s treatment may be considered a conflict of interest. In these cases, it’s best to refer the employee to a trusted colleague.

It's better to be safe than sorry, so keep these things in mind. If you have any questions about treating family, friends and employees, as a policyholder, you can call NCMIC's Claims Advice Hotline at 800-952-9935. We're always here to help!

About The Author

Mike Whitmer

Mike Whitmer is assistant vice president of insurance programs at NCMIC. With over 25 years' experience in insurance and finance, Mike has in-depth information to share with NDs. He is responsible for NCMIC's corporate relations team and directing risk management education efforts for doc ... read more

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