The hospital term “AMA” usually refers to when a patient decides to leave the hospital and the care of the attending providers against their medical advice. The AMA designation is used so that future healthcare providers are aware of how the patient/provider relationship came to an end while the patient was hospitalized. This serves to legally shield the attending doctor and hospital from liability if a patient gets ill or dies as a result of the discharge(1).
Patients most often opt for an AMA discharge for the following reasons:
- Lack of insurance
- Disagreements over standard of care
- Errors or mistakes in administering care
- Previous bad experiences
- Fear of contagion
- Wait times are too long
- Personal reasons
Patients who discharge with the AMA designation definitely pose a litigation risk(2). Without proper treatment and monitoring, these patients are left to make major medical decisions without the advice of a professional. And further, if a patient is in the hospital in the first place, it is likely that they cannot properly treat themselves at home for the same illness/injury. Should the patient’s case come to litigation, the outcome will hinge on what was said, done, and documented when the patient left the hospital, especially the conversation about the AMA designation(3).
Prevention is key when it comes to managing whether a patient even considers an AMA discharge in the first place. The best course of action for a hospital or provider is to diffuse any potential situations before they escalate into an AMA discharge request(4). This is best accomplished by utilizing patient advocates to mediate between the patient’s concerns and the hospital’s directives. This method ensures that both parties are heard and understood by an objective source. Plus, the likelihood of achieving a mutually agreed upon plan of care (and hence, the quality of the care itself) increases when all parties’ concerns are addressed.
Contact us today to determine if your liability coverage is sufficient if your practice incurs an AMA-related lawsuit.