Significant rise in calls from psychiatrists for advice about medical records

Jun 21, 2017

Have you ever wondered what type of medico-legal issues your colleagues grapple with and require urgent advice on? Analysis of calls to our Medico-legal Advisory Service (MLAS) highlights the common topics psychiatrists contact us on.

Last year, our advisory service received more than 14,000 calls from specialist members – with over 1,000 of those calls coming from psychiatrists. It’s unsurprising the service was rated as our most highly valued service by members in our 2016 annual member survey.

Psychiatrists are second only to plastic surgeons as the most frequent users of our advisory service, with seven calls for every 10 psychiatrist members last year, increasing slightly (3%) compared with the previous years.^

Ruanne Brell, a Medico-legal Advisor with Avant’s MLAS, said that given the nature of a psychiatrist’s practice, issues around complex and demanding patients may be more prevalent for psychiatrists, hence their greater need to seek advice.

So what are psychiatrists calling about?

Medico-legal issues around medical records are the most common matter, accounting for 13% of calls from psychiatrists last year. This was followed by complaints received by psychiatrists (11% of calls) and confidentiality (10% of calls), respectively.

Doctor-patient relationship calls on the rise

The topic responsible for driving the largest increase in calls is patient relationships. The frequency of calls from psychiatrist members on this matter increased 21%^. This category refers to the complexities of the doctor-patient relationship which can include advice about patients not complying with recommended treatment and how and when to terminate the doctor-patient relationship.

Concerned with confidentiality

When combined, matters regarding medical records, court documents and confidentiality make up just over 20% of the reason psychiatrists call the MLAS for advice.

Privacy has always been a hot topic for doctors and complying with your privacy and confidentiality obligations is essential.

Sounding board

Psychiatrist members frequently call us to assess the medico-legal risk of a situation they are facing. In our experience, if given the opportunity, psychiatrists will have often spoken to a mentor or colleague for support and guidance and then call us for clarification of their medico-legal obligations around the issue.

Useful information

To help manage the difficult situations psychiatrists may face, we have a wealth of useful information on our website.

Download our ‘When patients complain handbook’ for information on how to deal with and resolve patient complaints or download our factsheet for tips on how to manage difficult patients. Our factsheet ‘How to end the doctor-patient relationship’ also provides practical information on how to terminate the doctor-patient relationship.

Doctors can find information on many of the issues members call us about on our website. Our MLAS can be contacted via email medicolegalenquiry@avant.org.au or if you require immediate advice, call 1800 128 268.

Our advisory line is staffed by a dedicated team of medical advisors, solicitors and claims managers to provide members with personalised support – available 24/7 in emergencies. In response to the increased calls from members, we have expanded our advisory service to have more experts dedicated to providing advice and support across our state offices. They are part of the largest medico-legal team of any MDO in Australia.

^The increase is for 2016 over the average of the past three years.

What do you think is driving our MLAS call trends?

We value your comments and we would love to know what factors you think are responsible for driving the call trends highlighted in this article. Contact the editor@avant.org.au with your thoughts.

Share your view

We welcome your feedback on this article – email the Editor at: editor@avant.org.au