Whenever you must send an important communication to a patient, it must be in writing and sent by means of a reliable delivery method. In the past, many significant written communications — discharge letters, or warning letters to noncompliant patients — would be sent to the patient by certified mail, return receipt requested. The certified mail process requires a signature from the patient or another person who lives at the address, thus providing evidence that the communication was, in fact, received.
Unfortunately, not only has the cost of certified mail dramatically increased, but it is increasingly common that certified mailings are returned to the physician’s office without a signature. This could occur either because the patient refused to sign for the letter, or because the patient was never home to receive it. It can take several weeks for a letter to be returned as “refused” or “unclaimed.” The physician must then begin the notification process all over again in order to make an attempt to convey the communication to the patient. This delay could result in additional risk to the physician, especially if the physician wished to discharge the patient from the practice.
As a result of these issues, MLMIC attorney group Fager Amsler & Keller LLP has revised its recommendation concerning the method by which written communications should be sent to patients. To learn about this updated recommendation, please click here and scroll to page 8.