Mitchell W. Horwitz, a principal partner and head of the workers’ compensation department at Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, and Marc A. Perper, a partner and Chicago work injury attorney at Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, answer a listener’s question on Free Legal Advice Friday’s:
Should I allow my employee or my representative to speak to my Doctor when I am not present at the time of the conversation?
From Marc Perper:
In Illinois, a patient has what we call a privilege of confidentiality in the context of the doctor patient relationship.
What that means is, you have a right under our state’s constitution to privacy when you’re meeting privately with your doctor. And the Illinois Supreme Court has held that that right of confidentiality is protected by the right to privacy contained in the Illinois State Constitution.
Therefore, no representative of the employer or its insurance company has any right to invade the privacy of the examination room when you are meeting or speaking with your doctor – in the context of the physician patient relationship.
They don’t have any right to speak with your doctor outside your presence. They don’t have any right to be in the exam room in your presence, when your there with your doctor alone.
Frequently, what will happen is – insurance companies and employers will ask you to sign authorizations permitting them to contact your doctor outside your presence, essentially waiving your constitutional right to privacy. You don’t have any obligation to do that.
The employer does have a right to get copies of your medical records. They don’t have any right to speak with your doctor privately, ask your doctor to write written reports, ask questions of your doctor, etc. The only thing they are entitled to do is get copies of your records.
So, when they present these very broad medical authorizations for you to sign, our advice is NOT to sign them. We have our own authorizations that we have our clients sign, permitting the employers’ to obtain only your medical records and nothing else.
From Mitch Horwitz:
They really should, as a general rule, not speak to your doctor. However, there are certain situations we allow a nurse on the case. And the nurse will show up at a medical appointment, and they can ask questions of the doctor in your presence.
As a general rule, 100% of the time, if we do allow the employer or a representative of the employer to speak to your doctor, then you must be present in person or on the phone.
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