predatory patient

The Predatory Patient

Predatory patients are patients with a hidden agenda. For example, they may be looking for someone to sue, attempting to secure a doctor's excuse to miss work or seeking to defraud an insurance company. Doctors may unknowingly become party to these plans, putting their reputations and practices at risk.

Predatory patients can be experts at appealing to a doctor's ego. They may say: "The last two doctors I saw were incompetent, but I've heard good things about you." It can become easy for doctors to believe the compliments and not see the possible motives. Therefore, it can be a good idea to ask prior treaters why a patient was discharged. (A release from the patient will be needed to contact the doctor.)

Another reason doctors may not recognize a predatory patient is that D.C.s often don't see how patients behave outside the treatment room. That's where your staff can be a great resource. They can observe how patients act in the waiting room and how they interact with the front desk staff. By listening to your staff, you'll be able to hear additional perspectives about your patients. For example, listen when your staff tells you about patients who:

  • Attempt to schedule appointments after hours or for the last spot of the day 
  • Behave rudely with them (if they are personable with you)
  • Disregard staff instructions
  • Make negative comments as they leave the practice

Managing the Situation

Once you have identified a potential predatory patient, you need to protect your practice. As a first line of defense, you are encouraged to call NCMIC's Claims Advice Hotline at 800-242-4052. As a policyholder, you can confidentially share concerns you're unsure how to handle. Your call will not open a claim file, unless a request for damages has already been put in writing.

Additional Tips

  • Include a chaperone in the treatment room. The presence of a third party will usually stop inappropriate behavior. If a patient refuses to receive care while a chaperone is in the treatment room, it's a warning sign that you may be dealing with a predatory or another type of risky patient.
  • Document office visits and events as precisely as possible. In addition, keep phone messages and correspondence. Record-keeping is always important, but this is especially true with a predatory patient. At the same time, make sure your records reflect any concerns about the patient in a professional manner.
  • Be clear and direct with patients about behavior you find inappropriate. Many times, these patients will comply once confronted. If they don't, it may be time to end the doctor/patient relationship. If this step becomes necessary, make sure to communicate professionally and document the discussion in the patient's records. 

By effectively dealing with patients who have a hidden agenda, you'll be able to spend more time on patients who want quality chiropractic care. And that's bound to make your professional life more enjoyable and your practice more successful.

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