New Professional Conduct Rules

JULY 14, 2016

New Professional Conduct Rules: Georgia Medical Board Requires Chaperones During Certain Physical Examinations

As of May 2016, it is a violation of professional conduct for a medical professional to perform a "physical examination of the breast and/or genitalia of a patient of the opposite sex without a chaperone present." For all other examinations, a chaperone is suggested but not required. The board recommends that a chaperone be a health professional, but this is not a requirement. It is also important to note, that even though a chaperone is required for the exam, the patient and physician should be allowed an opportunity for private conversations.

SHOULD I ALWAYS PROVIDE A CHAPERONE EVEN IF THE EXAM FALLS OUTSIDE OF THE SCOPE OF RULE 360-3-.02(12)?

The Board does not require a physician to utilize a chaperone if the patient is not of the same sex or if the exam is not a breast or genital exam. Further, the physician will not be penalized for refusing to provide a chaperone if the exam does not fall within the rules' guidelines, even if the patient specifically requests one. So, should you always provide a chaperone?

If we know one thing about today's understanding of gender, it's that there is a growing trend to redefine gender identities as more traditionally understood. You've most likely seen heated discussions about transgender bathrooms, and Georgia is no stranger to its own debates regarding the matter. Regardless of how your beliefs relate to this ongoing conversation, your license could depend on being 100% sure of a person's gender, despite how they define themselves, before performing an exam upon the patient's breast or genitalia. Violation of this rule can result in license revocation, suspension, fines and/or reprimands of a physician or a physician's assistant.

Where the nature of the examination does not bring Rule 360-3-.02(12) strictly into play, the Medical Board does make recommendations based on the spirit of the rule. The Medical Board suggests consideration of the following in determining if a chaperone is required. The Physician should:

  • Respect the patient's dignity
  • Maintain a positive atmosphere
  • Encourage patients to request chaperones through clear signage or a conversation
  • Honor patient requests to have a chaperone
  • Provide clear explanations of exam components
  • Provide dressing gowns with full coverage
  • Provide a private room for changing

Some of these suggestions may seem obvious, but they do give good indication of the Board's intended purpose.

HOW DO I MAKE SURE I AM ADHERING TO CURRENT PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT RULES IN THE STATE OF GEORGIA?

Seemingly, there are three ways to approach the new rule and the added guidelines provided by the Georgia Composite Medical Board:

1. You could choose only to provide a chaperone for exams involving the breasts or genitalia of the opposite sex but not the same sex;

2. You could choose only to provide a chaperone for exams involving the breasts or genitalia of the opposite sex and provide chaperones for the same sex only if requested or;

3. You could choose to provide chaperones for all patients, regardless of sex, if the exam falls under the Rule 3603-.02(12) requirements.

It seems like an easy answer, but at Frances Cullen, P.C., we know these issues are not black and white. Office dynamics and economics often play out in different ways and what seems like the obvious, failsafe route, may not be your best approach. Our office provides specialized knowledge that works for you. All choices are not created equal, but we have the experience and expertise to help you make the choice that is right for you. It is never too early or too late to contact us.