Questioning patient
Risk Management

The Questioning Patient

What is the best way to address "questioning" patients? These are patients who clearly imply a lack of confidence in your expertise by questioning everything you say and do.


With these patients, a three-tiered approach may be advisable.

FIRST, make sure to take the time to fully explain your decisions—even more so than you normally do. Go over X-rays, review their progress frequently and answer all questions. Make sure your staff keeps you in the loop about any comments, complaints or questions, so you can follow up with the patient directly.

SECOND, sometimes when a patient is questioning everything, what they really want is a second opinion, but they won’t come out and say so. You need to read between the lines and see if they would prefer to see another or a different doctor or specialist. If a health insurance plan refuses to authorize a referral for a second opinion, patients have the option to pay for it out of pocket if they’re really worried.

THIRD, document everything you do, including any request for a referral. Keep complete, legible records of the treatment, your communications with the patient and family members, your opinion on whether a referral is necessary, and any efforts you made to coordinate the patient referral. It is a good idea to give patients the names and phone numbers for the referrals and note them in the chart.


The information in the NCMIC Learning Center is offered solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as, nor does it represent, legal or professional advice. Neither does this information constitute a guideline, practice parameter or standard of care. You should not act or rely upon this information without seeking the advice of an attorney familiar with the specific legal requirements of the state(s) in which you practice. If there is a discrepancy between the site and an insurance policy you have with NCMIC, the policy will prevail.