On occasion, our medical office has a patient in the lobby that is "disruptive." The patient constantly complains about the wait time to see the physician and his ongoing medical costs. He also approaches other patients in the lobby and not only shares his medical history, but inquiries into the reasons why the other patients are seeing the physician. What should we do?
Answer: (d) Speak to the patient about his behavior and continue to monitor it, taking appropriate action as needed.
Dealing with a disruptive patient can be a challenging task as there are many issues involved. For example, the disruptive patient may not understand that their behavior is disruptive. They may simply be seeking attention or their behavior may be a manifestation of their "normal" personality. In other cases, an underlying medical problem or adverse reactions to prescription medicine may be causing the disruptive behavior. At the extreme, the disruptive behavior may result in violent behavior. For these reasons, the disruptive employee must be approached carefully and with sensitivity.
The behavior must also be addressed because it is affecting other patients. If patients do not feel comfortable or safe sitting in your lobby, they may seek medical attention from another physician outside of your practice. They may also tell family and friends who may also switch medical practices or refrain from seeking new treatment at your facility. In extreme cases, these patients may file a complaint with your state's medical regulatory agency.
A recommended approach is to meet privately with the disruptive patient and talk through each of his issues or concerns. The patient should be informed about acceptable behavior in the lobby, particularly when it comes to approaching other patients. Additionally, to minimize this patient's interaction with others, medical staff should make an effort (if possible) to immediately transfer the patient to a treatment room upon arrival. If necessary, medical staff may need to call 9-1-1 for assistance.
By taking a proactive approach to dealing with disruptive patients, medical staff can minimize the risk of violent behavior, stress in the workplace and loss of patients.
This article should not be construed as legal advice.
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