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Ethical Concerns for Addiction Treatment Referrals

a person talks on a phone with a patient to avoid ethical concerns for addiction treatment referrals

A medical referral is when you send one of your patients to another professional healthcare provider. This alternate provider may specialize in a different type of addiction treatment and therefore be more knowledgeable in diagnosing a specific substance use disorder as well as being more capable of better managing the desired patient outcomes. There are ethical concerns for addiction treatment referrals, and Sunwave tools for clinical directors can help address and navigate these unique referral issues. Contact us today online or by calling us at 561.576.6037 to learn about how our tools for addiction treatment centers can help your staff ethically care for your patients.

Ethical Concerns for Addiction Treatment Referrals

Most cases of referral of patients are to obtain the best possible diagnosis, achieve adequate investigations, and find the proper treatment by addiction healthcare specialists. Patients depend greatly on the medical information and advice available from their healthcare providers. It is critical, then, that each referral is appropriate, well-timed, and directed to the most qualified healthcare clinician or physician.

Knowing when and how to decide to refer a patient with a substance use disorder to an outside mental health agency or treatment center can be a delicate practice, complete with a set of ethical concerns for addiction treatment referrals. Professional, unbiased judgment and discernment are needed to make a proper decision. Additionally, your team must consider the ethical issues in addiction treatment referrals before sending a patient to a specialist, a new therapist, or an alternative treatment facility. A referral is usually warranted when:

  • The patient’s needs exceed the scope of your facility’s expertise
  • A different therapy approach is required
  • Interventions are not working or helping
  • Family members are necessary to be part of the treatment
  • Emotions are running high
  • Dual diagnosis evaluation is necessary
  • Highly specialized group or individual therapy is needed

When to medicate is also an ethical issue in addiction treatment referrals that must be considered by your organization. Some of your patients may or may not want medication during their addiction treatment. For therapists who may believe that medication should only be used as a last resort, an organization needs to decide if it is ethical not to refer to a medical provider and what role informed consent plays in your doctor-patient relationships. Our tools for clinical directors aim to make it easier to navigate the different and dynamic ethical issues in addiction treatment referrals.

Accuracy Is Critical for Referrals

Ethical considerations that a referring clinician must navigate usually involve the progression of a patient’s case when there is a tipping point that leads to the need for an addiction treatment referral. Sometimes the tipping point is obvious, but other times, it is inapparent. This can cause a delay in referral and possibly cost the patient precious time and money without a change in diagnosis or definitive treatment plan.

Furthermore, studies of clinical samples indicate that an alarming number of substance use disorder patients have unrecognized medical illnesses that directly cause or contribute to their addiction and mental health symptoms. And yet a patient may refuse your treatment for their addiction, prompting a referral to a different therapist or addiction treatment center in the case of conscientious objection to the care you and your team deem necessary. This may lead to additional ethical issues in addiction treatment referrals as you work to best serve the patient’s interests.

Learn More at Sunwave Health

Sunwave’s tools for clinical directors can help you avoid ethical issues in addiction treatment referrals. Learn how we can play a vital role in how your organization updates and achieves patient goals by calling us 561.576.6037 or reaching out online today to discover how our infrastructure sets us apart to drive healthy results for healthcare providers and patients.