Why patient follow-up makes good legal sense

July 1, 2004

When you suspect that a patient has breast cancer, ACOG guidelines place a duty on you to discuss testing and treatment options such as mammography, biopsy, or surgery. It might seem obvious, but it's also a good idea to follow up on your patients' testing and treatments; doing so can help reduce the likelihood that a patient will win a failure-to-diagnose claim against you. To ensure that patients receive appropriate follow-up, and to minimize legal risk, ACOG Today (May/June 2004) recommends the following:

  • Refer patients to physicians you know or recommend.

  • Advise patients to contact you for additional referrals if they are unable to see one of the referred physicians.

  • Make sure your patients understand the importance of going for follow-up tests.

  • Follow-up on your patients' test results and discuss the results with them.

  • Contact patients who do not comply with prescribed actions to find out why.

  • Document attempts to contact patients in the medical record.