Parental custody disputes can be emotionally charged and stressful for everyone involved. Chiropractors, like other healthcare providers, can inadvertently find themselves caught in the middle of such disputes. It’s a position no chiropractor ever wishes to be in, yet as we will explore in this blog post, it’s a situation that is not uncommon. Drawing insights from a recent case experienced by a chiropractor and the guidance provided by the ChiroFutures Malpractice Insurance Program, we delve into the importance of risk management and the role a robust malpractice provider plays in such scenarios.
A young patient’s mother brings him in for chiropractic care. Months later, the divorced father unexpectedly visits the practice demanding details about his son’s treatment. The situation escalates with demands for exact appointment timings, veiled threats of withdrawing consent, and a contention around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines. Add to this a restraining order and a tug-of-war between two parents, and suddenly the chiropractor is thrust into an unfamiliar and perilous territory.
Navigating The Minefield
1. Clarifying HIPAA Misunderstandings: It’s imperative that chiropractors stay informed about what HIPAA permits and prohibits. In the discussed scenario, the chiropractor incorrectly stated that HIPAA prevented the sharing of appointment timings. This was inaccurate, especially since the father has custody rights. Making such misinformed statements can open up the chiropractor to complaints or even legal actions.
2. Staying Out of Legal Disputes: It is essential to understand that a chiropractor’s role is primarily to provide care. The intricacies of custody battles and restraining orders are best left to legal professionals. If a patient’s guardian claims the existence of a restraining order, it’s crucial to request its production. Only then can the chiropractor navigate the situation with full knowledge.
3. Documentation is Key: Every communication, every decision, and every piece of advice received or given must be meticulously documented. This not only serves as a reference but also provides a protective shield should any disputes arise in the future.
4. Setting Clear Office Policies: It is essential to have clear office policies that delineate boundaries for both staff and patients. If a chiropractor feels that the treatment environment is being compromised due to external disputes, they can choose to discharge a patient without prejudice. However, this must be communicated clearly and in compliance with regulations to avoid accusations of patient abandonment.
5. Prior Consent for Minors: To avoid future headaches, chiropractors can set a policy requiring both parents’ consent for treating a minor. They can also request written consent from parents before initiating any treatment.
The Role of ChiroFutures Malpractice Insurance Program
Navigating such turbulent waters can be overwhelming. That’s where a malpractice insurance provider like ChiroFutures proves invaluable. With seasoned experts who understand the nuances of the chiropractic profession, they provide guidance, support, and invaluable advice. The discussed case illustrates the importance of having a malpractice provider who can promptly address concerns, offer sound advice, and ensure that the chiropractor remains protected.
While a chiropractor’s primary aim is to provide care, they are sometimes thrust into situations where legalities and emotional disputes overshadow the care itself. With proactive risk management and a solid malpractice provider like ChiroFutures by their side, chiropractors can confidently navigate these challenges and continue to focus on their primary mission: ensuring their patients’ well-being.