The Risk in Treating Family, Friends and Employees

Before treating your family, friends or employees, take into consideration the following risks.

“No good deed goes unpunished.”  We have all heard Oscar Wilde’s aphorism and most of us have probably been the recipient of the punishment when all we were doing was trying to help someone out.  This can be the situation when it comes to treating family, friends and/or employees in your practice.  There are of course, certain circumstances where it is acceptable to provide care, like in an emergency situation until someone else arrives who can take over the care.  Remember, it is not acceptable to write prescriptions for controlled substances for yourself or immediate family members.

How can treating family, friend or employees be a risky practice situation?  After all, isn’t having a family member, friend or working for as a healthcare professional one of those perks we have all come to expect? 

Keep in mind that the standard of care prevails, regardless of the relationship with the patient.  Certain protocols must be followed.   When family, friends or employees are involved; those protocols tend to slip by the wayside.

Before treating your family, friends or employees, take into consideration the following risks:

  • Personal feelings/relationships may unduly influence the plan of care, compromising professional objectivity and clinic judgment.
  • Thorough healthy history and complete exam may be compromised.
    • The history and exam must be consistent for all patients, regardless of the relationship
    • The family, friend or employee may be reluctant to share information which might affect the treatment plan
  • Neglected informed consent and patient autonomy
  • Patient reluctance due to the relationship, which can lead to questioning the doctor’s recommendations.
  • No reimbursements from some third party insurers for providing treatment to family members
  • Lack of proper documentation of the clinical encounter
  • Past clinical records, medication lists, and other vital information may not be available or reviewed prior to treatment
  • An attempt to render care outside of the specialty/expertise and training may be undertaken in the effort to help out
  • Claims may be pursued which could affect your professional standing for the rest of your career
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