CNBC, The Washington Post, and LinkedIn have all reported on the growing phenomenon of workers who “ghost” their employers—essentially, leaving their job without providing notice and cutting off all contact with the company without explanation. While the poor ethics and etiquette of that practice are beyond question, there could be serious legal consequences if it happens in the urgent care setting. And it does happen—even among physicians and other clinical staff; some leave at the end of their shift and simply never return, obviously leaving their employer and coworkers in the lurch. Some urgent care operators may start reporting such events to state medical boards on the grounds that it constitutes patient abandonment. Then there’s the specter of a malpractice claim that could cast the delinquent provider in an even worse light. One real-life example: A patient made an “occurrence” claim for malpractice against a physician for prescribing the wrong drug. She was made “uncomfortable” as a result, but her health was never in jeopardy. To make matters worse, at least in her mind, her weekend was ruined and she thought that warranted a settlement. Malpractice policies are often owned by the clinic—meaning it’s the clinic, not the provider, that gets to determine the disposition of the insurance claim. However, the professional liability remains with the provider. Any claims in which a monetary settlement is made get reported to the state on the provider’s record. Where the clinic might have fought the claim to protect the provider’s license if he or she was still in good standing, instead they settled the case with the patient to make its liability go away—with the provider absorbing a stain on her permanent license.
‘Ghosting’ Can Have Dramatic Implications in the Urgent Care Center