Pros and cons of offering professional courtesy
This traditional practice now involves insurance carriers
Decide your own policy
It is up to each practitioner to decide office policy with respect to extending professional courtesy, as well as to whom, how much, and how often. There is no best solution, only the best option for your practice and level of comfort. The best policy may in fact be that you decide no professional courtesy will be extended to anyone. This is particularly true when a patient holds third-party or government-issued coverage and you are billing for services. Perhaps we should consider returning to how services used to covered: cash only with no third-party or insurance billing.
If you currently extend professional courtesy, this is the time to rethink your policy. Your patients may need to be retrained, whether you just purchased the practice or have been in practice for years. The times are changing and you have to protect yourself and your practice. If you are just starting, don’t even go down that road if at all possible. If you do, be specific and only consider this action in very limited and defined circumstances, making certain you document as completely as possible.
If you are purchasing or taking over a practice, it is prudent to ask if the practice has an existing professional courtesy policy. If a policy exists, the new practitioner should review it and make appropriate updates or changes. I recommend to discontinue the practice and notify affected patients of the change in policy and practice ownership.
If you choose to offer professional courtesy in your office, remember to be careful, be consistent, be mindful of the laws and regulations, comply with the contracts you have in place, and consult your attorney when necessary.
Related: 5 steps to creating a budget
1. Professional courtesy. Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_courtesy. Accessed 4/14/17.
2. American Medical Association. Code of Medical Ethics. Available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/sites/default/files/media-browser/public/ethics/1847code_0.pdf. Accessed 4/11/17.
3. Rathburn KC, Richards EP. Professional Courtesy. Missouri Medicine. Available at: http://biotech.law.lsu.edu/articles/Professional_Courtesy.html. Accessed 4/11/17
4. Doherty JF, Ras M. Most Favored Nation Clauses in Payor/Provider Agreements. Maryland State Bar Association. Available at: http://www.msba.org/uploadedFiles/MSBA/Member_Groups/Sections/Health_Law/AHLA%20MFN%20Article.pdf. Accessed 4/14/17.
5. US. Department of Health & Human Services. Summary of the HIPAA Security Rule. Available at:. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/security/laws-regulations/index.html. Accessed 4/14/17.
6. The American Health Lawyers Association. Anti-Kickback Statute. Available at: https://www.healthlawyers.org/hlresources/Health%20Law%20Wiki/Anti-Kickb.... Accessed 4/14/17.
7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. OIG Compliance Program for Individual and Small Group Physician Practices. Federal Register. Available at: https://oig.hhs.gov/authorities/docs/physician.pdf. Accessed 4/11/17.