Key legal principles for hospitalists

Am J Med. 2001 Dec 21;111(9B):5S-9S. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(01)00962-7.


In a hospitalist system, when a patient leaves the hospital, he or she will return to a primary care provider (PCP) for follow-up and continuing care. The hand-off after discharge can compromise communication with the PCP. Physicians have a legal duty to provide follow-up care to patients with whom they have a relationship. The obligation to provide follow-up care endures even when the patient misses a scheduled appointment or does not adhere to the follow-up regimen. In general, the physician who began the care must fulfill that obligation. An essential component of follow-up care includes educating the patient about what symptoms require follow-up care and why it is important. The duty to provide adequate follow-up care is shared by the hospitalist and the PCP. Virtually no malpractice case law considers the obligations and practices of hospitalists. This article uses cases involving follow-up care for patients treated in an emergency department and general cases regarding liability for follow-up care to examine the potential legal obligations of both hospitalists and PCPs for follow-up care, including circumstances involving pending test results and incidental findings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal
  • Case Management
  • Continuity of Patient Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Hospitalists / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Institutional Practice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Jurisprudence
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians, Family
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Social Responsibility
  • United States