When patients begins treatment under a health care professional, they form a contract between themselves and the medical professional. The contract formed therein is legally binding and is condition subsequent in nature – the health care professional will perform a service, resulting in payment from the patient for services rendered. The terms of this contract may vary depending upon the agreement, and generally may be either express or implied. Express contracts between the physician and patient are enumerated and specified by date, while implied contracts are looser in construction and often left up to the physician’s discretion.
The vast majority of contracts in the field between health care professionals and their patients are implied contracts. Implied contracts between physicians/patients are contracts that do not set a course of action or payment at the beginning of service. For example, a typical medical examination takes place at the patient’s request, either at the home of the patient or the medical facility where the doctor practices. The medical physician will then examine the patient, perform a diagnosis, schedule a treatment plan, perhaps write a prescription or referral, and set a date for a follow-up examination.
During the initial examination, an implied contract is formed between the patient and the doctor. The doctor does not inform the patient upon the initial contact that a certain amount of charges will be imposed for services rendered, nor does the patient know the length of treatment entailed. It is implied that the medical physician will act in good faith to the best of his or her abilities when forming a diagnosis and treatment course. It is not the implied contract of the medical physician to cure the patient, but to act in the patient’s best interest to the best of his or her abilities.
Certain individuals may form an express contract with their physicians. Wealthier individuals or those in need of home care may form agreement to place a medical physician on retainer. A medical physician on retainer will perform his or her services privately for a monthly or yearly fee, with reasonable flexible expenditures. Medical Physicians on retainer need not express each medical procedure in writing, as they are paid a flat fee for their services while caring for the patient.