Because liability never takes a holiday, your vacation plans should include medical coverage arrangements for your practice, particularly when you use locum tenens. The following tips will help reduce risks in your practice and promote the safety of your patients as you plan your vacation:
Upon returning from vacation, promptly confer with all covering physicians. Document what you were told by the covering physicians about any significant developments in patients’ clinical course or treatment while you were away. Run down the patient list that you prepared before you left for vacation. Peruse all correspondence, phone messages, and lab reports. Review written follow-up orders and appointments or diagnostic studies scheduled by the covering physicians to ensure nothing is forgotten. Promptly deal with any patient who may have experienced an untoward event or medical complication while you were away.
Depending on your medical specialty and practice environment, set aside time on your first day back to catch up, review and prioritize correspondence, review and return telephone messages, and attend to matters that require your immediate attention. This investment of time may seem like a luxury, but it will facilitate a smooth transition. Doing so could also prevent an inadvertent break in the continuity of care attributed to oversight or delay, rather than to an absence from the practice.
Consider implementing these fundamental loss prevention measures for even brief periods when you are unavailable, such as observance of religious holidays, attending medical conferences, personal illness, or a long weekend. Unfortunately, vulnerability to claims is not diminished on these occasions.
By Cliff Rapp, Vice President, Southeast Region, Department of Patient Safety, The Doctors Company.
The guidelines suggested here are not rules, do not constitute legal advice, and do not ensure a successful outcome. The ultimate decision regarding the appropriateness of any treatment must be made by each healthcare provider in light of all circumstances prevailing in the individual situation and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in which the care is rendered.