Protection of Conscience Project
Protection of Conscience Project
Service, not Servitude

Service, not Servitude


Appendix "G"

Notices to Patients

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Notices to patients may be posted in waiting or consulting rooms or made available in other ways. Written notices have some natural limitations. Some steps can be taken to make them more effective, and other alternatives or additional steps can be considered.

G1. Reading skills and language

G1.1 Some thought should be given to patients who cannot read or whose reading skills are such that they will not attempt to read a notice or may not understand it. This problem is more likely to surface unexpectedly with new patients.

G1.2 Practices are, to some extent, already addressing the needs of patients whose first language is not English. Translation of notices will benefit patients who do not read English, especially when only one or two languages other than English are predominant in a practice.

G2. Accepting new patients

G2.1 The process of accepting new patients can be modified to identify reading and language difficulties that may be of broader concern, as well as issues concerning scope of practice and freedom of conscience.

G2.2 When a patient is accepted, clerical staff should ascertain whether or not the patient is fluent in English or has difficulty reading. The latter is often a sensitive issue, and some assistance in developing an effective and respectful approach might be had from community organizations that support the development of literacy.

G2.3 An intake form that is completed by new patients might include a place for the patient to check off topics that the patient would like to discuss with a physician. The topics might include those that are of concern to the physician for reasons of conscience, as well as others that experience suggests; a blank space can be left for self-generated topics. This would allow the physician to identify and discuss sensitive issues with each new patient.

G2.4 An intake form could be provided in precisely the same format in different languages, so that the physician and clerical staff would be able to understand most of the responses by referring to the English form (or a form in their own language).

G2.5 Some patients may require assistance in completing the form. If that assistance is not provided by the physician during the initial interview or consultation, it should be provided by clerical staff. In that case, the need to preserve patient privacy must be considered in policies and design of office space and waiting room.

G3. Re-directing patients

G3.1 A pamphlet advising patients how to locate other physicians or access other health care services could be made generally available in the waiting room. Clerical staff approached by patients as a result of a posted notice could offer such a pamphlet, perhaps reducing the amount of time needed to deal with the request and minimizing intrusion on patient privacy.