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Thwart drug seekers before they get into the exam room

The Doctor's Office, October 23, 2008

Foiling the drug-seeking patient involves more than the physician. It's a collaborative effort that's a clinical and practice-management issue.

The following tips can help to create an office environment that discourages drug seekers:

Appearances matter. Run a clean, neat office that doesn't look like it's a place for drug seekers.

Have consequences. Too few practices terminate their relationship with patients who are trying to game the system. Termination may not always be the right approach, but there need to be consequences.

Ask questions. You want to have the reputation as a practice that asks questions. It's part of taking a thorough history. Among the questions to consider:

  • What other providers have you seen for this condition?
  • What drugs are you currently taking?
  • Which pharmacies do you use?
  • Are you being treated for drug or alcohol dependency?

Ask for picture ID. Ask for a driver's license or state ID and make a copy for your files so you can match a face to a name.

Spread the word. Putting a policy in place is essential. But you must also communicate it to patients. Develop an information brochure that describes the practice's policies, and be sure to include a section on controlled substances. Include information about samples to after-hours refills to drug testing in the brochure.

Practice due diligence. Securing drug samples is common sense, but lapses do occur. It may be time to review your procedures. Likewise, keep track of prescription sheets.


This article was adapted from one that originally appeared in the October issue of The Doctor's Office, a HealthLeaders Media publication.