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Opinion 10.018 - Physician Participation in Soliciting Contributions from Patients

Donations play an important role in supporting and improving a community’s health care. Physicians are encouraged to participate in fundraising and other solicitation activities while protecting the integrity of the patient-physician relationship, including patient privacy and confidentiality, and ensuring that all donations are fully voluntary. In particular:

(1) Appropriate means of soliciting contributions include making information available in a reception area and speaking at fundraising events. Physicians should avoid directly soliciting their own patients, especially at the time of a clinical encounter. They should reinforce the trust that is the foundation of the patient-physician relationship by being clear that patients’ welfare is the primary priority and that patients need not contribute in order to continue receiving the same quality of care.

(2) The greater the separation between the request and the clinical encounter, the more acceptable the solicitation is likely to be.

(3) When physicians participate in solicitation efforts as members of the general community, they should seek to minimize perceptions of overlap with their professional roles.

(4) Physicians in institutions that rely on fundraising personnel for donation requests should work to protect privacy and confidentiality of patient information. In particular physicians should ensure that any patient information used for solicitation activities reveals only basic demographic data, not personal health information. When the medical service delivered or the diagnosis is identifiable by the nature of the physician’s practice or the physician’s specialty, permission from the patient should be obtained prior to divulging any information to third parties.

(5) When patients initiate requests to contribute, physicians should refer them to appropriate sources of information or fundraising personnel. (IV, VII, VIII)

Issued December 2004 based on the report "Physician Participation in Soliciting Contributions from Patients," adopted June 2004