Our missions are 1) to ensure the continuity of patients’/clients’ mental health care and 2) to protect mental health providers’ estates from ethical-legal risk.
1. Legal risks of unanticipated death or disability are complex.
- Providers are legally and ethically responsible for their patients’/clients’ continuity of care. Continuity of care is defined as the ease of referring a patient/client to a new provider in the event of death or disability of their treating clinician.
- In the event of death or disability, it is unlawful for unauthorized persons to view patient/client files, even for the purpose of obtaining patient/client contact information. The laws surrounding patient/client confidentiality remain in force after a clinician’s death or disability.
2. Providers’ Estates are potentially vulnerable.
- Should a patient’s/client’s continuity of care lapse, or be otherwise delayed due to providers death or disability, failure to have a continuity of care plan leaves provider’s estate vulnerable to litigation.
- Patients/clients have been known to act unpredictably when a provider passes, harming themselves, others, or others’ property, leaving a provider’s estate vulnerable to litigation.
- This litigation is not always covered by professional malpractice insurance. A provider’s estate can be sued by a patient/client if he or she is damaged by the clinician’s failure to provide for continued care of the patient/client. This is called “proximate cause” in negligence jurisprudence.
- Please Note: The liability to the estate of the provider can exceed the amount of coverage provided by a professional malpractice policy. The differential between the policy and actual judge or jury award for damages is paid by the provider’s estate.
- Litigation is long, expensive, and most of all, emotionally traumatic. A practice continuity plan is designed to avoid a liability trap that was never contemplated by a practitioner.
3. Providers avoid addressing this potential liability.
- The complexity of the legal and ethical issues surrounding continuity of care plans causes providers to avoid planning for their potential death or disability.
- Practice Legacy Programs helps providers confront their denial and develop continuity of care plans.
4. Ease of referring a patient/client to a predesignated therapist.
- We help you create continuity plans that, in the event of death or disability, patients/clients are referred to appropriate mental health providers, as agreed upon in advance by the provider and the patient/client.
- If the provider does not have a referral provider in mind, we provide a list of names of qualified clinicians in close proximity to the provider’s practice location from which to choose.
This document was last revised on September 28, 2016.