Yes, in some cases.
The majority of patients who experience an adverse event or an unexpectedly bad outcome do not sue the institution or their physicians, or even lodge a complaint. In those cases where a patient or family member does express anger, dissatisfaction with care, or even their intent to seek legal advice, questions about the bill often arise.
One reasonable approach to resolving patient dissatisfaction on a case-by-case basis is to consider "free servicing" or "writing off" all or a portion of the patient's bill. However, no one guarantees that this practice prevents or avoids future claims. Supporters of this approach say it promotes good will and improves customer satisfaction, and may thereby avert a claim. Others believe that patients who are inclined to sue will do so regardless of this assistance. In court, adjustments to a patient's bill are not considered an admission of liability. Free servicing is not recommended if doing so is unlikely to satisfy the patient.
The decision to not charge or to reimburse a patient when something goes wrong is based on a multitude of factors that change with every case.
Is the adverse event or poor outcome due to an error?
Is a provider at fault?
Should the event have been prevented?
What is the magnitude of the injury and amount of billings involved?
Is this a one-time write off, or an open-ended clinical situation?
In the opinion of the providers involved, the risk manager, and administrator, will the free care resolve the patient's complaint, anger, and frustration with his or her care?
A corollary to "free servicing" is the practice of providing reimbursement for lost personal articles, such as dentures and glasses, stolen or lost valuables, and repair of dental injury occurring during intubation.
The ability to provide free service is an important tool in handling patient concerns at an administrative level. Involving caregivers in risk management decisions and communicating to them any action taken on behalf of a patient is also important.