Scenario: Contacting former patients
You are running errands over the lunch hour and you run into a previous patient. It has been a couple of years since you have seen the patient, and they say hello to you. After a brief conversation of “how you are doing,” and the patient indicating that you had really helped them, you both go on your way. It felt great to see them.
Over the next few days, you replay the conversation because you felt a connection when talking to them; however, the interaction was so quick there wasn’t time to explore this feeling.
After a few days of pondering, you look up the patient in your Patient Database software and you use the phone number on file to call the patient. During the call, you share that you had really enjoyed catching up with them. You explain that you had wished you had asked for their number but because your chat was so quick, there wasn’t enough time. Instead, you looked up their phone number on file at your clinic. You ask them if they would like to meet for coffee the next day. The patient agrees and you end the call. The next day, you arrive at the coffee shop on time but the patient never shows up.
The next day, you receive a phone call with the complaints director who informs you that a former patient has made a complaint by phone and in writing indicating they are distressed that you contacted them to ask them out.
The Conduct in Question
The chiropractor used professional information in their patient database to initiate a social connection with a former patient.
What legislation applies to this scenario?
This situation potentially violates multiple pieces of legislation. The Health Information Act, The Personal Information Protection Act and the Standards of Practice. Information that you obtain as a custodian cannot be leveraged to make personal contact with patients.
What can you do to avoid this type of situation?
Seeing patients in public is a common occurrence. Regulated members are cautioned against initiating contact with patients in public but may reciprocate contact initiated by patients while maintaining professional boundaries.
In this scenario, the patient initiated contact by first saying hello and stopping to talk. The patient in this scenario was friendly with the chiropractor. That does not mean that they were soliciting additional contact.
A relationship with a patient is a professional one and you have a duty to ensure that professional boundaries are maintained inside or outside of your practice.