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Can a Doctor Refuse to See a Patient?

by Edward Leigh, Patient Communications Expert
October 12, 2018

Question: My mother was referred to a new doctor by her previous one. However, we received a note saying he cannot see her. Can he do that?

Answer: Thank you for writing.

Yes, physicians have the right to not see patients, but it is important to look at the reasons.

If the letter did not state a specific reason for being unable to see your mother, call the office and ask.  Based on the reason, you could potentially negotiate the possibility of a visit.  For example, if the physician has a full load of patients and can’t take on new patients, depending on the urgency of the matter, ask if you can be called if a current patinet cancels.

This situation can happen for many reasons.  The list below has some possible explanations:

•    A completely full schedule and unable to take new patients.

•    The office doesn’t take certain types of insurance.  

•    The physician is unable to treat the specific medical issue. If this is the case, ask for a referral to a physician who can treat.

Thank you again for writing. My best to you and your mother.

Edward Leigh, MA, focuses on helping patients and healthcare professionals effectively communicate with each other. Excellent communication skills dramatically enhance patient satisfaction and safety. He presents high-energy and informative programs for hospitals, healthcare associations, medical practices, government organizations and universities. He is also an in-demand consultant and coach. He has a master’s degree in health education.

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