Every healthcare provider has at least one problematic patient who demands extra attention. Some of these patients continue to cause troubles even after they are “discharged.” A recent case coming from Utah illustrates this.

Ms. Reynolds was a regular customer of Kent’s Market pharmacy. On many occasions, she complained to the pharmacy staff about the wait time (she alleged that her usual wait-time was about 45 minutes). According to the pharmacy manager, his staff spent numerous hours on the phone with Ms. Reynolds’ insurance. As a result, the pharmacy informed Ms. Reynold that they no longer would fill her scripts.  The pharmacy also notified the state Medicaid agency of a potential insurance fraud that Ms. Reynolds was allegedly trying to commit.

The enraged patient filed a legal action against the pharmacy under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Utah’s Consumer Protection laws.

During the litigation, the pharmacy argued that the decision to “discharge” Ms. Reynold was based on the amount of time it took its staff to accommodate her requests. The Pharmacy called Ms. Reynold “a very difficult and demanding costumer,” who demanded large amounts of employees’ time. The pharmacy further explained that Ms. Reynolds made unreasonable requests such as demanding prescriptions “in amounts and doses higher than written” and requiring the employees to spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour on the phone with her insurance company.

The court ruled for the pharmacy holding that Ms. Reynolds failed to present sufficient evidence that the pharmacy discriminated against her based on her disabilities.

While the case resulted in a favorable outcome for the pharmacy, it still spent time and money defending itself and putting its reputation on the line. So while you may be right when you do not want to deal with difficult patients, before “discharging” them, consider collateral damage that they may cause. Any “discharge” should be done in a very careful non-confrontational manner to avoid any implications of violating patients’ right to care.