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Patient cancels first appointment - obligation to patient?

August 6, 2013

Question:

Jennifer,

If a patient makes an first time appointment and then cancels, does our office has an obligation to the patient to follow up or try to reschedule or even terminate the relationship by letter?
.
Thanks,
Patty 

Answer:

I can't say under no circumstances would a physicjan-patient relationship be implied under such circumstances, however, given the fact pattern, and had no physician or healthcare provider had any contact with the patient at the time of cancellation, there is likely a very low probability of exposure here.  The AMA has an opinion on this topic, which states the physician-patient relationship begins when the physician serves a patient's needs.  Here, the patient has not been seen, has not conversed with a healthcare provider at the location and no advice has been offered (presumably).  

An interesting caveat to add would be whether medical advice was offered and available to the patient on the practitioner's website.  If so, would that additional information change our fact pattern so as to lead an objective reviewer (or worse, a judge) to determine medical advice was offered to the potential patient, and an obligation to serve the patient was created?  I'm not sure.  But I cannot answer definitively in the negative.  
 
 

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