Internal Medicine: When Personal Relationships Interfere with the Standard of Care (Claims Corner CME)


Physicians and dentists are often faced with the decision whether to treat friends and families without realizing the inherent risks in doing so. A "curbside consultation," an acute medical condition presented through a personal phone call, or long-term management of the patient's health, practitioners must consider how their personal bond with the patient impacts their provider-patient relationship and the provision of acceptable standards of care. Physicians and dentists may believe that treating friends and family is less risky for a medical malpractice claim, but claims data over the years has revealed that this is simply not true. Often the practitioner is at a higher risk due to the casual relationship with the patient, which may impact patient record documentation, communication, clinical judgment and objectivity, and the ability to fully assess the patient through history-taking and physical exam. A review of one case will highlight some common circumstances and risks associated with the treatment of friends and family members.

Course ID #: TDE 190649.0 Issue Date: 12/17/2019 Expiration Date: 12/17/2022


After completing this activity, learners will be able to:

  • Evaluate the risks when approached by a close friend or family member seeking clinical advice and/or treatment.
  • Assess the risks presented by requests for "curbside consultation" especially if you will not see the patient.
  • Describe the common mistakes made by practitioners in the clinical management of close friends and/or family members.
  • Assess each current provider-patient relationship that you have with family members or friends to determine if the patient should be referred to another practitioner.


No individual in a position to control or influence the content of this activity has reported relevant financial relationships with commercial interests. No commercial support was provided for this activity.


The information and guidelines contained in this activity are generalized and may not apply to all practice situations. We recommend that legal advice be obtained from a qualified attorney for specific application to your practice. The information is intended for educational purposes and should be used as a reference guide only.

Course Developers

Howard Marcus, MD, FACP Internal Medicine, Texas Physician Advisory Board Chair, The Doctors Company

Debbie Hill, RN, MBA, CPHRM, Senior Patient Safety Risk Manager, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company

Susan Shepard, MSN, MA, RN, CPHRM, Senior Director, Patient Safety and Risk Management Education, Department of Patient Safety and Risk Management, The Doctors Company

Julie Hopkins, MA, MBA, Director, Continuing Professional Education, The Doctors Company

Continuing Education Credit

The Doctors Company is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical educational activities for physicians.

The Doctors Company designates this activity for a maximum of 0.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


The Doctors Company is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider. ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry. Concerns or complaints about a CE provider may be directed to the provider or to ADA CERP at

The Doctors Company designates this activity for one 0.75 continuing education credits.

Complies with State Requirements

Please SEE the Federation of State Medical Boards overview of Continuing Medical Education requirements by State. 

Technical Requirements

The activity is best experienced using the most current browser: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Microsoft Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported by this platform. All activities featuring audio must have a speaker. To view graphic images and references that appear in separate "pop-up" windows, JavaScript and session cookies must be enabled on your computer. Adobe Acrobat Reader may be required for certain activities.

Contact Us

If you have questions, contact or call 800.421.2368, extension 1243.


Visit our Resource document for this program.