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Can we contact "Emergency Contact" for non-emergency?

                 November 11, 2014

Question:

Jennifer,

I appreciate receiving your newsletter and I was wondering if I can ask you a question that has come up.  When the patient fills out their initial intake form we ask for an emergency contact.  When we are trying to reach the patient at a later date and their number is disconnected or they are unreachable for whatever reason can we call the emergency contact number and say “we are from a medical center and we are trying to reach….can you tell us how we can reach them”.  Some of the staff feel that the patients are giving us the emergency number for emergencies only not to figure out a way to reach them and it may be a violation of their privacy.  Any input on this?   

Thanks,
C

Answer:

I tend to agree that the emergency contact is only there for “emergency” purposes.   Utilizing the emergency contact for a non-emergent situation may give rise to unwanted attention and concern by the contact and also potential exposure to the practice should the patient file a complaint. 

You may want to modify your forms to change from emergency contact to “Additional Contact”  or “Alternate Contact” and explain elsewhere this person may be called for Treatment, Operational or Payment reasons to allow for a wider range of potential contact. 

If you would like help with your patient forms, let us know. 


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