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Physicians, when does your patient need a chaperone?

In some situations, physicians are allowed to offer the use of a chaperone for a patient during a physical exam. Generally, physicians will offer the use of these third parties in an effort to provide a patient with additional comfort. A patient may agree to a chaperone in an effort to maintain their dignity.

But when should a physician offer the use of a chaperone to a patient during an exam? The Texas Medical Board recently provided some guidance on this question. Key takeaway lesson from the publication include:

  • Consider policy. It is wise for medical practices to develop a policy for the use of chaperones. Every physician practicing within the group should be aware of and abide by the accepted procedure for use of chaperones.
  • Listen to the patient. The American Medical Association (AMA) medical ethics state a physician must honor a patient's request for a chaperone. If a patient asks, listen and, if possible, find a suitable chaperone.
  • Update the medical record. Physician's should update the medical record to reflect when a patient requests and uses a chaperone during an exam.

The piece also points out that each specialty is different. As such, certain specialties have additional recommendations on the use of chaperones to take into account when implementing a policy within one's medical practice.

A failure to follow proper protocol can result in an investigation by the Board. This investigation can lead to licensing issues and other reprimands. Physicians can mitigate this risk by seeking legal counsel as soon as he or she is aware of an impending investigation.

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