Medico-legal Risk Associated with Pediatric Mental Health Telephone Consultation Programs

Published In: Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, Dec. 2012

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2012

by Katherine Hobbs Knutson, Marlynn H. Wei, John H. Straus, Barry Sarvet, Bruce J. Masek, Bradley D. Stein

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Clinicians providing consultation through mental health telephone consultation programs express concern about the potential legal risk of the practice. In this survey of six state mental health telephone consultation program directors, we report the annual number of children referred for consultation and the number of lawsuits against consultant clinicians. Between 2004 and 2010, 3,652 children per year were referred nationally, and there were no medical malpractice lawsuits against clinicians related to telephone consultation program activity. Although medico-legal risk is always present, the findings of this national study suggest the risk for clinicians providing mental health telephone consultation may be lower than perceived.

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