Every medical practice needs policies in place to be consistent and clear in how it manages its relationship with its patients. Some of these are legal requirements to keep up-to-date with HPCSA rules, the National Health Act and Consumer Protection Act, others are just a matter of good practice management.

Practice Terms and Conditions
When new patients join a practice they should be given a copy of the terms and conditions to read and sign at the same time as they fill in their personal details. This document should be written in clear and plain language avoiding jargon; it should cover the rules of the practice, what patients can expect of the practice, what the practice expects of its patients, how billing will be done and when payment is expected.

Personal Information
Patients should also be asked whether they are happy to be contacted by the practice with follow-up information and healthcare advice and which contact details are preferred for this. New legislation on the protection of personal information requires that patients should be asked for their consent before any details are disclosed to third parties. Therefore practices that participate in product or patient registries need to ensure that patients are informed about the use that their information may be put to and that they give their consent. This is especially important in the case of medical scheme queries where patient information may need to be shared.

Billing Policy
A billing policy is essential. It should include a list of the codes most often used to charge by the practice. It should also detail fee charges such as for reports, telephone consultations, home visits and so on. It is helpful to list services that are included and those that are extra, for example physiotherapists, pathology etc.
As part of the billing policy the practice should state how it treats medical scheme patient and those not belonging to schemes. It should set out timelines for payment, when interest becomes payable and what steps the practice would take before handing an account over for collection (these should all be in line with the National Credit Act).

Handling of Complaints
Patients should be invited to address their concerns with the practice and staff but in the event this is unsatisfactory, the practice should also have a policy on how complaints should be submitted by patients and details of how they will be handled.

Having all these policies in clear, plain writing ensures consistency in how the practice deals with patients. Policies such as these manage patient expectations of the practice in a way that makes your everyday practice management that much simpler and straightforward and also demonstrate that the medical practice complies with legal requirements for everybody’s peace of mind.