15AMGA.ORG JUNE 2018
How can you preserve a constructive physician-patient relationship and protect yourself legally when a patient behaves in a challenging or violent fashion?
Some disputes with patients involve a legit-
imate patient grievance while others involve
patient behavior that is manipulative, belligerent,
threatening, or outright violent. Each dispute
calls for its own response. Practices can reduce
the risks of harm to patients, physicians, and
staff—and legal action—by planning to prevent
or correctly respond to each type of dispute.
The stakes for physicians and practices are
high: Healthcare professionals, including physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses,
and technical support staff, often suffer serious
injuries, even death, as they attempt to deliver
care (Figure 1). Hostility may suddenly erupt,
whether from a patient or from a visitor or vendor
present on the premises. Do not hesitate to call
911 for help from law enforcement to prevent or
de-escalate a dangerous situation.
Mitigating legal risks in violent disputes
By Rich Cahill, Esq.
Psychiatrists who report physical assault
Emergency medical workers who will
experience violence in their careers
Fatalities occurring in healthcare/social
services settings caused by violence
Percentage of workplace assaults
suffered by healthcare workers
Violent Incidents in Healthcare Settings
Sources: Data from Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Medscape. Managing Challenging Patient Relationships. © 2017 The Doctors Company ( thedoctors.com/challengingpatients).