Responding to inquiries related the termination of a popular employee

Q. A practice manager recently called about a former employee that was recently terminated. The employee was an advanced practice provider and extremely popular with patients. The practice has been receiving a lot of questions from patients about the former employee’s status, and some medical providers have even been confronted with rumors about the departure. We suspect the circumstances of the termination were less than ideal, and the practice manager could not resist criticizing the former employee during our initial call. The practice is seeking guidance relative to addressing the inquiries/questions with patients.

A.Though the practice and its providers may be seething inside, it is important to resist the urge to criticize a former employee. The practice should instruct all their current employees to calmly inform inquisitive patients that it is against practice policy to discuss such matters. If the practice fails to broadly address the situation, they run the risk of future claims for slander and violations of state and federal privacy laws. Further, the insured should understand that most of these claims are not typically covered under general and/or professional liability insurance policies.