Did Colleague Ask for “Curbside Care?”

Most emergency physicians (EPs) would never consider leaving a patient’s chart completely blank, as they’re well aware of the resulting liability risks, but caring for an ED colleague without documentation is no different, according to Martin Ogle, MD, FACEP, senior partner and vice president of CEP America, an Emeryville, CA-based provider of acute care staffing solutions.

EPs might not realize the legal risks involved in writing a prescription for a nurse, technician, or administrative employee who says they have a urinary tract infection, for example. “It’s a tough situation to say no to these people when they ask,” acknowledges Ogle. “EPs want to help, but are not supposed to be caring for people without going through the appropriate channels.”

Depending on the terms of the EP’s medical malpractice coverage, if the patient has not been registered as being seen by the EP, coverage might not be triggered in the event of a lawsuit, warns Ogle.

EPs can write off the professional fee if they wish to help their colleague out, but Ogle recommends stating, “I can’t just write you a prescription. We have to check you in and I have to document this. We have to make sure we’ve done this properly.”

Ogle is aware of a lawsuit involving an EP who sewed up a laceration on an ED clerical employee who filed a lawsuit after she experienced a delayed rupture of a tendon. She alleged that care was delayed because the EP didn’t refer her to a hand specialist. “Fortunately, the hospital was providing malpractice coverage for the EP, so the EP ended up getting coverage. The case was settled,” says Ogle.

If the EP has no documentation, there is no way to prove what evaluation was done, what the examination consisted of, or even if any care was provided, says Ogle. “Someone may move on, the relationship isn’t there anymore, and sometimes people feel the need to try to get what they can out of a situation,” he says. “You really can’t take a case like this to trial because you don’t have any documentation of what was done. The carrier has to sit down and negotiate a settlement amount.”

If a colleague asks for medical care, Ogle recommends that EPs inform the medical director or nurse manager about the situation. “It’s not that the provider is telling on anybody, but it’s important to remind people that they can’t ask for ‘curbside care’ from EPs,” he says. “You might get away with it 99 times, but it’s the 100th time that will get you. It’s not the right thing to do.”


For more information, contact:

  • Martin Ogle, MD, FACEP, Vice President, CEP America, Emeryville, CA. Phone: (949) 461-5200. E-mail: MartinOgle@cep.com.