FAQs: COVID-19 Informed Consent
Q: Can I be sued if a patient contracts COVID-19 after coming in for an office visit?
A: Yes, although plaintiffs may have a difficult time substantiating the origin of the infection given that the typical patient will have multiple opportunities for potential exposures. Medical practices should implement reasonable protocols to mitigate risk of infection to both patients and employees, such as those required by state and local public health officials and infection control guidelines put forth by the CDC and OSHA.
Q.) Should I require my patients to sign a waiver absolving me of liability related to COVID-19?
A.) No. Asking patients to sign such a waiver as a condition of providing care could invalidate the waiver in a legal action/complaint because the patient is signing “under duress” to receive care. It can also be off-putting from a patient relations standpoint. We recommend that communications with patients regarding COVID-19 put the patient’s health and safety front and center, rather than liability concerns.
Q) Does MIEC recommend using a COVID-19 consent form?
A) MIEC does not require a specific form. We recommend that practices post educational information on their web sites and direct patients to this information as part of the appointment pre-screening process. We recommend that the educational information be tailored to your specific practice, while including the following:
- Any in-person interaction, including at a medical office, may increase potential exposure to COVID-19.
- COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults (65 and older) and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. If you or a member of your household is at higher risk, you may wish to postpone some routine and/or elective medical care. Please discuss with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
- A description of the steps your practice is taking (and asking your patients to take) for the safety of patients and staff. Mitigation strategies should include those required by state and local public health officers and incorporate recommendations as appropriate from the CDC, AMA, your specialty society, and other recognized authorities. Links to many of these entities can be found on MIEC’s COVID-19 Resource Center.
For elective treatments, surgeries and procedures- we recommend that physicians supplement their typical informed consent conversation with a patient-specific discussion weighing the potential risks and benefits of the procedure, including:
- In-person consultations and/or having a procedure performed at this time increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19
- COVID-19 can result in severe illness, intensive therapies, extended intubation and/or ventilator support, permanent changes to health, and even death.
- Undergoing a medical procedure may increase a patient’s susceptibility to COVID-19.
- Patient-specific risks/ co-morbidities associated with COVID-19, acknowledging that this is a new virus and we are still learning about who and how it impacts health.
- Any changes patients should be aware of regarding pre- and post-op procedures, such as limitations on visitors.
SAMPLE PATIENT EDUCATION LANGUAGE
How this sample language is to be used: Incorporate any local public health guidelines/restrictions and incorporate guidance from your specialty societies, as appropriate. The list of actions taken is a sample for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed as a list of requirements, as this may differ from locality to locality. It should be tailored to the actions your practice is taking to mitigate risk of transmission.
COVID-19 Precautions: What Patients Can Expect
[Practice Name] has made some changes to our appointment and visit process to enhance the comfort and safety of our patients and staff during the novel coronavirus outbreak. Please read carefully prior to your appointment and alert us to any questions or concerns:
[List actions you are taking to mitigate risk of transmission. The following list is a SAMPLE ONLY. Please edit this document to reflect what you are doing in your practice, taking into consideration any local public health orders/requirements.]
Prior to your appointment, we will ask about your recent travel history as well as any flu-like symptoms you or member of your household have experienced in the past two weeks.
All patients and staff who enter our facility will have their temperature taken via touchless thermometer.
Patients, staff and visitors will wear masks and practice social distancing unless and until closer contact is required to carry out the purpose of the visit/treatment.
Friends and family should not accompany patients to visits unless it is necessary; please notify our office in advance of who will be accompanying you.
Unless an in-person visit is necessary, we will continue to provide services via telehealth (list examples of services provided via telehealth).
List other steps you are taking to reduce potential exposure, such as virtual check-ins, touchless payment procedures, additional cleaning and disinfection, limiting the number of patients in the waiting room, etc.
Although we are taking many steps to reduce potential exposure to COVID-19, it is important that you know that any in-person interaction, including at a medical office, may increase potential exposure to COVID-19.
COVID-19 is a new disease and there is limited information regarding risk factors for severe disease. Based on currently available information and clinical expertise, older adults (65 and older) and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. If you or a member of your household is at higher risk, you may wish to postpone some routine and/or elective medical care. Please discuss with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Although some aspects of your visit may be different than we are all used to, our dedication to providing you with excellent care remains the same. We are looking forward to seeing you!